Google has given us so much. It’s the frontline of the information age, dedicated to answering our every question and, unfortunately, is responsible for diagnosing most of us with a terminal disease probably more than once. Right?
Here’s what you need to know about your friendly Doctor Google.
First of all, it’s actually an official thing. Late last year, Google announced it was rolling out medical information on more than 900 conditions, saying they “continue to be among the most important things people ask Google about, and one of our most popular features”.
It’s a big move because it means you won’t get stuck reading listicles like “5 signs the strange rash on your foot is actually a flesh-eating superbug” on websites with names like www.panicnow.com – because we’ve all been there. It means there’s information available directly from Google.
The feature isn’t available in Australia yet but the search giant says it’s expanding the service and audiences here will no doubt be interested.
The number of us searching our symptoms is growing
“Medical practitioners need to be aware that over one in six patients today are also researching health and medical information on the internet – and the number is growing,” Roy Morgan Research chief executive Michele Levine said.
Roy Morgan research released in January shows just how frequently Australians fronting up to their doctor’s offices are also fronting their screens to seek medical advice.
“Doctors’ visitors are today over a third more likely to also look up medical information online than they were four years ago,” the study said.
“Overall, 11.3 per cent of Australians (aged 14 and over) looked up health or medical information online in the last four weeks, up from 9.1 per cent in 2011.”
So, what can you do to stay on track when you’re researching your health online?
The general consensus is that online symptom checkers are better than general searching based on symptoms.
A Harvard Medical School study into the accuracy of general purpose symptom checkers found that “although the online programs are often wrong, they are roughly equivalent to telephone triage lines commonly used at primary care practices – and they are better than general Internet-search self-diagnosis and triage.”
As always when online, it’s a smart move to get your information from official sites. The Australian Government offers a symptom checker through its Health Direct website and it might be a good place to start.
Another good idea? Common sense. Using the internet to get more information on some symptoms you’re experiencing is OK, but using it to avoid going to a doctor is not.
If you’re ready to see a doctor, and your regular GP is closed you can make an appointment with House Call Doctor online or by calling 13 55 66.