Dr Google: Why We Shouldn’t Use Google To Diagnose Health Problems

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Reasons Not To Rely On Dr. Google For A Health Assessment

BY BRITTANY MCGILL

Would you trust this guys medical advice?

Would you trust his medical advice?

The internet has revolutionised the way we seek and obtain information, but we should be cautious about using the internet to make important judgements and decisions about our health and wellbeing.

The questions we ask Dr Google can range from the trivial – is red wine good for me? To the more serious – do I have cancer?

If you’re had health problems in the past or you’re prone to worry, chances are you’ve used the internet to seek reassurance about unusual symptoms or sensations. But given that anyone can post anything on the internet, be wary of taking what you read at face value.

When you read medical information online – keep your anxiety in check by asking yourself the following questions:

Who has written this information? Are they a qualified medical health professional?

Can I identify any conflicts of interest (e.g. is the website sponsored by a large pharmaceutical company)?

Does this article or website cite reliable sources of information to back up its claims?

Does the article or website provide links to the relevant background research and data?

Is this information a balanced summary of the available evidence? Or does what I’m reading sound like a sensationalist or ‘one-in-a-million’ story?

Is this information really relevant to me? Are there other less serious explanations for my symptoms?

Most importantly, remember that Dr Google is not a substitute for a professional medical opinion.

Brittany is a clinical psychologist registrar who completed her postgraduate clinical training at the University of New South Wales. She is interested in anxiety and mood disorders across the lifespan and uses cognitive-behavioural and other evidence-based strategies to help people achieve positive change in their lives.