Every single minute 70,000 people turn to Google to get a diagnosis of what ails them, and that’s probably not necessarily a good thing, though it’s a mixed bag.
Medical researchers in Australia wanted to know how good the advice people are getting is, so they checked 36 international symptom-checking sites and found the first result that pops up is wrong two-thirds of the time. The advice offered tends to only be correct half the time, probably a reflection of the great variance that exists in the human population.
Medical industry analyst Seth Denson, author of The Cure as well as co-founder of GDP Advisors, says he can appreciate the temptation. “As a matter of fact I was recently in a doctor’s office with a sign that read ‘Don’t let your Google search history outweigh my medical degree,’ and there’s certainly some truth to that” he tells KTRH News.The problem, Denson says, is that 40% are consulting with Dr. Google looking to self-diagnose, and that’s the wrong application of what should be a very useful tool for both patients and health care providers. “Where that becomes a conflict is when ourselves try to be a Google Doctor, we try to go to the web and self-diagnose without any medical testing.” Denson says the best patient is a well-informed patient able to advocate for themselves and guide their doctors – the one who went to medical school – to the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Lead author of the Australian study Michella Hill says the results of their investigation should give one pause.“While it may be tempting to use these tools to find out what may be causing your symptoms, most of the time they are unreliable at best and can be dangerous at worst," she said in a recently published interview.
In the midst of a pandemic capable of setting a cyberchondriac’s heads spinning, it’s a good reminder to see a real doctor if you’re concerned about your health.