However accompanying a greater reliability in online resources, a new study of 400 patients, published in the Medical Journal of Australia just last week, suggests that having a consultation with Dr. Google before an IRL (In Real Life) doc could speed up the process during treatment.
“Searching [online] is helping patients to characterise what they are feeling,” said Dr. Anthony Cocco, co-author of the study, when talking to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The main downside is that around 40 per cent of patients had found searching online had increased their anxiety,” Dr Cocco said.
However there were significant benefits to having a quick online search before consulting a professional. According to Cocco and his team, almost half of the emergency room patients surveyed had already Googled their symptoms when they fronted up to hospital. Of the 190 who had done their research, 150 said that they felt they were in a better position to understand their diagnosis and the reasons for treatment.
“There is a lot of medical jargon that can be hard for patients to grasp, so [researching beforehand] is helping them to express what they are feeling to the doctors and ask questions so we are able to have an informed discussion.”
“This can help during the initial history-taking phase because patients recognise the significance of certain symptoms and will mention them,” continued Dr. Cocco.
The study suggests that millennials are the most likely to research their symptoms before heading into the emergency department, with the majority heading to Google more than 24 hours before their hospital visit.
“If you have an uninformed patient, teasing out the symptoms can be quite difficult,” suggested Dr. Cocco.
While the study is obviously encouraging for web-based diagnosis, it has limits; you’ll want to make sure your online source is reputable. If you’re an experiencing and emergency or extreme symptoms, please don’t bypass an IRL doctor in favour of Google.