We've all done it... Had a couple of symptoms and threw them in a search engine like Google or, the more "official" online medical advisor, WebMD. Remember what it came they with? Well, for us it ran the gamut from a common cold to a pulmonary embolism, Lyme disease to generalized anxiety disorder and so on... We should mention that the symptoms we described were dizziness, fatigue, and a cough. Essentially, the only thing it got correct is the fact that those symptoms describe a lot of incredibly benign AND a lot of not so benign problems, but Google and WebMD wouldn't be able to tell you with any degree of certainty which one YOU have.
We know that sounds incredibly obvious, but so many people still rely on web searches for a diagnosis! Check out these results from a recent PEW Research Center study:
These results mean that way too many Americans are relying on the internet as a source of reliable health information, not enough are following-up with actual physicians, and of those that do follow-up, the majority of diagnoses aren't even correct. That worries us a lot.
We know you're busy. We know it takes time to schedule and go to an appointment, and sometimes even more to get your results and treatment plan. We need you to know though, that relying on the internet isn't a substitute. Not even close.
The Dangers of Online Self-Diagnosing
"Everything is wrong"
On occasion, a patient will bring us a printout of some potential issues that they think may be going on based on "some online research" they did on their cough and low-grade fever. Too often, those "potential issues" are well beyond the realm of conceivable possibilities and all that patient has done is worked themselves up into thinking they might have a serious medical condition.
"Nothing is wrong"
The human brain is incredible and your ability to sense that something is wrong with your body is absolutely amazing. Listen to it. WebMD telling you that you might have the stomach flu or a vitamin deficiency when you've been experiencing unexplainable weight loss and occasional lameness in your left arm is the worst way to lull yourself into a false sense of security.
When you self-diagnose, if you've convinced yourself that you've found the right answer, you are more prone to self-medicate. Doing this can have two negative outcomes: leaving the actual problem untreated for an extended or indefinite length of time and/or causing MORE problems.
Ridding Yourself of Dr. Google
Establish with a Primary Care Physician (PCP)
Having a doctor in your corner that you know and trust will make it far easier for you to reach out when something is wrong. We have a great group of Internists, Pediatricians, OB/GYNs, Physical Therapists, and an amazing Podiatrist all under one roof! We also offer services like diabetes education, nutrition counseling, anticoagulation counseling, laboratory and medical imaging in clinic.
See your PCP at least annually
Making routine contact with your doctor will keep your line of communication open, as well as help them to establish a baseline for you so that they can track any changes or observe any deviations from your norm.
Understand the limitations of the internet
A web search can produce a TON of information, but sifting through for credible, unbiased sources, AND identifying something relevant and applicable to your situation is the hard, if not completely impossible, part. That's where we come in! One appointment with our docs and maybe a few tests with lab or radiology will give you the peace of mind that your specific ailment is going to be treated appropriately. Don't risk your well-being for convenience.
Sign-up for MyChart
A good way to manage your health online is through MyChart, a personalized, secure, web and mobile application that gives patients access to portions of their medical record and allows them to communicate with their providers. Find out more about MyChart, including how to sign up, HERE!
Final thoughts: We aren't trying to say "THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE!!!" We are very aware that the internet can be a really accommodating and handy place to find information on countless health topics. We get it. We share and write articles all the time! We just want to caution you on relying on a web search for diagnostic purposes because, trust us, the cons FAR outweigh the pros there. As the WebMD disclaimer puts it:
Just come and see us, okay?