Is it Sick to Diagnose Ourselves?

by Sandy Getzkey

Is it Sick to Diagnose Ourselves?
There is new medicine man in everyone’s home. The internet. Dr. Internet has provided us with everything we need to know about our personal ailments, from stretch marks to more serious problems. Many of us spend hours online looking for ways to confirm our worst fears. Self-diagnosis is more than just gratifying. It’s a phenomenon. Most people will ask a free search engine to diagnose their problems before consulting a doctor, and many stop looking when they think they have an answer.

A study conducted at BYU has recently called the validity of online self-diagnosis into question with an interesting find. The Internet is written by humans, and any information contained therein is subject to flaws in research demographics, health information included. Oddly enough, while most people have admitted to consulting the Internet before consulting a doctor, less than 15% of Internet users post their experiences with health issues online.

Think about that. Your primary care physician has a doctoral degree. Eight years of intensive research encompassing a huge range of health issues has found him in a position of trust and leadership among his peers. Dr. Internet is composed of the professional experiences of 15% of Internet users, who would you rather consult?

This imbalance poses a threat to the credibility of online self-diagnosis for more than one reason.
First and foremost, high accuracy can only be achieved in high numbers. Most long term studies involve thousands of patients, followed for years of data collection. 

If three people review a product and two find it to be insufficient, the next user will find either a low star-rating, or a 67% failure rate. True accuracy cannot be achieved without sufficient opportunity to present itself. If a thousand people were asked to review the same product, and over 900 approved of it, the two that didn’t wouldn’t tip the scales so dramatically.

Secondly, what we don’t post can hurt us. Users with first-hand knowledge of health issues are holding back, due to a desire for privacy. Patient confidentiality is taken seriously by physicians, but few things on the Internet are protected by law. 

However, failure to post important information leaves inconclusive studies and claims unchallenged. For this reason, the 85% of us who choose to post pictures of our pets over health-related topics would benefit from the occasional anonymous post. Instead, we wait for someone else to do it.

Fortunately, comment boxes aren’t the only things consumers focus on. Many consumers search for healthcare providers online, and they usually find what they’re looking for. Ultimately, knowledge is power, whether it’s sound or factually inaccurate. Self-diagnosis using the Internet is dangerous. Talk to your doctor. Then come back and tell us about it.

The author Sandy Getzky is an associate editor at ProveMyMeds, a medication review site for common ailments that plague people everyday. She also provides medical research for condition-oriented publications like the National Nail Fungus Organization.


About Mark


Mark Dilworth is a Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist and since 2006 he has owned Your Fitness University, Her Fitness Hut, My Fitness Hut, Sports Fitness Hut.

Mark has helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle changes that lead to better long-term health, which includes acceptable body fat and ideal body weight.He does not recommend fad diets, quick weight loss gimmicks, starvation diets, weight loss pills, fat burner supplements and the like.

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