Health Care Trends With a Social Media Twist
If you’re anything like me, the Internet is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to your general health and wellbeing. If you’re anything like me, you think it’s a brilliant idea to immediately Google any symptom you find yourself experiencing. If you’re anything like me, “I have this weird pain in my leg” quickly turns in to “WebMD says I have osteomyelitis and I’m going to have to get an amputation!” Ahem.
A new study in Psychological Science actually proved that when looking up diagnoses on the Internet, we’re more likely to irrationally infer meanings from a “streak.” This, according to the Huffington Post, is “when a number of our symptoms are listed consecutively on a website.”
So there’s the curse. The blessing is that Google, WebMD and social media have allowed you, the patient, to become empowered in your healthcare. It used to be common to go in to a doctor’s appointment, rattle off symptoms and then fill a prescription for the medication that will supposedly cure a mysterious illness you can’t even pronounce. Now, you have the opportunity to do some background research, see what your symptoms could correlate to, and then look in to potential treatment options.
Clearly this poses a “catch-22” of sorts where you are more prone to self-diagnose yourself and then, panic-stricken, run to your doctor to cure your osteomyelitis (please, doc, anything but my leg!) The important thing is to remember that your doctor went to medical school for years, whereas the person in that Yahoo! forum likely didn’t. The Internet is a great resource for doing some general information gathering, but as a consistent practice you should never assume anything about your health without consulting a medical professional.
(In the interest of full disclosure, you aren’t the only one Googling your symptoms. 46% of doctors recently admitted to using Google and Yahoo! to treat, diagnose and care for their patients.)
Do you Google your symptoms? Do you find that it makes you more paranoid about your health? Now, excuse me because I think I feel an ache in my shoulder that I need to Google…