Calling Dr. Google

Keep Technology in Perspective when Researching Healthcare

Today’s technology is omnipresent in everything that we do. From virtual education to online shopping, we’re never far from the screen or the keyboard. Can you imagine traveling out of state without the internet or your smartphone to provide directions, make calls, or find the nearest restaurant? We are dependent on the internet throughout all aspects of life--even healthcare. How many of us self-diagnose via Google when we aren’t feeling well? Internet searches may give us some credible information, but it is essential to maintain balance when researching our health online. 

Algorithms take precedence on the internet, so keep everything in perspective. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

●        Search engines love to finish your sentences. When you start typing in “abdominal pain,” you will probably be pointed toward articles on pregnancy, COVID, HIV, cancer, and so forth. In Google’s eagerness to finish your thoughts, arbitrary suggestions will pop up—so don’t panic. Feel free to giggle and move on.

●        Search engines use web “crawlers” that scour websites for search words and new content. Accuracy is not a factor on the list of ranking criteria.

●        Verify the credibility of authors and sources. Search engines do not verify the accuracy of the data results from your search. Remember that information can be misconstrued or taken out of context by the writer.

●        Misunderstanding or mistranslation can lead to overreacting regarding a minor issue or, worse, dismissing important symptoms that need further investigation.

●        Refer to time-honored, credible hospital and medical organizations that publish content. The Mayo Clinic, Medline, and the NIH are a few great sources.  

Dr. Sakina Dinani, Chief Medical Physician at Synergy Health Advisors in New Jersey, advises,Diagnosis is not the outcome of an algorithm. It’s a clinical deduction based on years of clinical education and experience shaped by the individual physician’s ability to know the nuances of illness and wellness. Google is an algorithm and does not compare in the least.”

The lesson here is, Google if you must. Online research has its place but doesn’t replace a well-established, communicative physician-patient partnership. A professionally-licensed medical team gets to know patients through in-depth consultations and understanding family medical histories, personal medical journeys, and the patient’s own unique circumstances. Having an experienced and compassionate physician by your side is the key to a successful personalized care plan.

“Many factors play a part in an accurate diagnosis, including patient experience, the context of the symptoms, and diagnostic testing,” says Dr. Dinani. “Healthcare should be built upon a personal connection between the physician and patient. Translating symptoms is not as simple as using Google translate!”

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