Google Should Never Replace A Real Doctor!

This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Linda Girgis. Linda is a family physician who treats patients in South River, New Jersey and its surrounding communities.

1655856_1547545698840474_1303930263172636281_nDr. Girgis is a firm believer of educating her patients on how to use Doctor Google safely.

“Many patients Google their health symptoms, and I tend to find them looking at the worst-case scenarios and they worry needlessly” says Dr. Girgis.

She believes googling health symptoms can be a positive thing. She generally loves when patients have researched their health and bring her articles they find online. However, she is finding more and more patients are being deceived by misinformation or exaggerations found on Google.

Dr Girgis finds patients who Google live on two polarizing ends. They either Google their symptoms and fall into a false security that nothing is wrong – which lends them into delayed diagnoses and treatments when there is an issue. Or, they research on Google and “convince themselves that they have cancer, and no amount of testing could convince them otherwise”. Most often, unnecessary tests are conducted due to trying to convince the patient that they are healthy and fine.

In general, Dr. Girgis thinks Doctor Google can be a good idea – “BUT, patients need to be educated” she says. Patients sometimes believe the treatments and remedies they read online, this can be very dangerous or ineffective.

It is important to know which sites are the best to use; otherwise you are reading a bunch of useless and incorrect information. She recommends Maya Clinic, Cleveland Clinic or the CDC.

“Dr. Google should never replace a real doctor” according to Dr. Girgis.

Follow Dr. Girgis on Twitter for more healthcare advise and recommendations @LindaGirgis,MD

‘Don’t let the web, get to your head’

Stop Dr Google.

More Real-Life Cyberchondria Stories

This week, we spoke to more of our readers about their DR Google experiences. Here are some of their stories:

Female, 22

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. I was curious to what Google would say.

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. I’ve recently googled right arm hurting, wisdom teeth symptoms, ear infection and fainting.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 11.21.33 AM

Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. The right arm hurting was apparently a heart attack – this didn’t worry me very much since it’s quite extreme. But my painful wisdom teeth was showing to be a really bad ear infection.

Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. Yes, Google was correct about the ear infection however the suggested treatment was incorrect.

Female, 24

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. I Google every kind of symptom that ever pops up. From simple things like causes of headaches because I don’t want to waste a doctors time…to more private things that you don’t particularly want to see a doctor about.

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. Ankle sprain

Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. Torn ligaments in my ankle

Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. Yes, I went to my physio the next day – she said I had torn ligaments but not to the extreme as described by Google. She also picked up on other issues with my ankle that Google did not mention.

Male, 23

Q. Why did you Google your health symptoms?

A. Yes, to read about different forms of mental health issues.

Q. What symptoms did you Google?

A. Basically feelings, thoughts, dreams, symptoms of mental health issues i.e. lack of sleep etc.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 11.20.27 AM

Q. What was Google’s diagnosis?

A. I most likely have a mild case of bipolar disorder called cyclothymia or minor early stages of depression

Q. Did you seek a professional’s opinion?

A. No, I have not gone to go and see a doctor.

If you’d like to share your cyberchondria stories with us, please email stopdrgoogling@gmail.com.

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

Tips for Finding Health Information Online

Stop DR Google aims to convince YOU that Googling a health symptom is dangerous and to stop! BUT, we know it is impossible to make ALL OF YOU walk away from the keyboard. The least we can do is give you tips on how to find trustworthy health information online and make safe choices.

cyberchondriacs

Tip 1. Research the website not just your symptom!
Look into the site you are reading, don’t just select the first website that Google suggests. Ensure the information was written by a reputable health organisation – read the ‘about us’ section to validate it is a trustworthy site. Charities and associations that are dedicated to a specific health condition are a good source of information, for example, Endometriosisaustralia.org or diabetesaustralia.com.au.

Tip 2. Be specific with your choice of Google words
Googling specific health symptoms will be more likely to generate accurate results. Vague searches will often be a symptom for a terrible illness; for instance, a bad headache is a symptom of brain cancer. But the chance of having brain cancer is extremely low compared to other headache related conditions. Don’t wander around sites just because you are curious, only read articles specific to your symptoms only.

Tip 3. Consistency
Don’t just read one site, read a few that back up your findings. This will improve the accuracy, relevance and validation to your self-diagnosis. Look for facts and figures; steer clear of opinion pieces, exaggerations and hyperboles.isportacus-panic-buttonTip 4. Don’t Panic
Even if you follow the above steps and a terrible diagnosis shows up, do not panic! You must remember a rare disease is RARE and will always require a professional diagnosis for confirmation.

Screaming businessman looking at his laptop in office

Tip 5. Accept that your self-diagnosis can be wrong
Visit a doctor! Accept that he/she may tell you it isn’t a rare disease and Google was in fact, incorrect.

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

How is Google affecting our Heart?

Today is World Heart Day! Today is about educating society on how to be healthy in order to live longer; whether it is keeping fit, eating the right foods or timely sleep patterns.

However, with the rise of DR Google users – today is also a reminder to stress less. We are constantly connected to our mobiles, laptops or tablets. We are constantly on the move, whilst simultaneously connected to our work, our schooling or our family via mobile technologies. Every day stresses are on the rise with the consistent need to have a healthy work-life-friend-family balance. We urge ourselves to fit as much as we can into every day of our lives, without taking note on how it is affecting our health.

All these social pressures are contributing to the recent increase in DR Google users! People find excuses to not visit a real doctor (whether it is due to work, sport, family, education or friend commitments). Instead they visit DR Google.

Starcevic & Berle suggest people these days seek medical information online as it’s faster than making a doctors appointment and waiting in a doctor’s surgery. The accessibility of mobile technologies makes ‘googling’ symptoms easy, as individuals want real-time information (ABC). But what is this doing to your heart.

DR Google can often provide the worst-case scenarios to patients; giving these patients heightened levels of stress and anxiety. This is not good for your health, and certainly not good for your heart.

Celebrate World Heart Day today by telling a friend to not Google his/her health symptoms. You may save their heart.

Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

Sources:

ABC News 2011, ABC News, accessed 25 August 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3198312.html>

Starcevic, V., & Berle, D. (2013). Cyberchondria: towards a better understanding of excessive health-related Internet use.

10 Signs You’re a Cyberchondriac

Isn’t it great having Dr Google everywhere you go at your fingertips? BUT it’s all fun and games until WedMD says you have a rare disease and you have 12 months to live!

Here are 10 Signs that mean You’re a Cyberchondriac:

1. Every time you feel a slight tingle, ache or pain – you Google what it means to relieve anxiety

2. You read at least 3 different sites on the first search page of Google – one source is never enough!

google_meme_2nd_page

3. Instead of becoming less stressed, you become anxious and worried because you’re focusing on the worse case scenario

4. You then check online forums for reassurance and further clarification – at this point, you’ve definitely diagnosed yourself and are thinking the worse

resized_hipster-ariel-meme-generator-feel-sick-google-the-symptoms-on-google-oh-god-i-m-dying-a9b564

5. Rather than just ‘Googling’ the symptom, you start ‘Googling’ the disease you believe you have. And ALL of the symptoms and causes seem to relate to you

6. You’re convinced you have an extremely rare disease! You’re tingle, ache or pain all of a sudden is so much worse

Internet pharmacy
Internet pharmacy

7. You send the website links to your partner or best friend to inform them you have an incurable rare disease

8. The more you read, the more worried you are

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9. You distract yourself from the real reason you opened up the Internet browser

10. You believe Google, more than your professional GP. When you visit your doctor, you try to educate him on what you read on Google.

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Don’t let the web, get to your head!

Stop Dr Google.

What is STOP DR GOOGLE?

Stop Dr Google is a blog dedicated to educating young adults on the facts of cyberchondria, the dangers of self-diagnosis online, tips for those who wish to self-diagnose, and real-life stories of people who’ve experienced cyberchondria.

But first…you may we wondering, WHAT IS CYBERCHONDRIA?

Have you ever experienced a bad headache?

You may have googled ‘bad headache’ if it carried on for a couple days. Within five minutes, you learn that you have a migraine…OR, you’re suffering from chronic headaches (which is hereditary)…OR WAIT, Google jut diagnosed you with brain cancer! You’re in a panic…screaming at your family to come to the computer and read this tragic news. You call your best friend to tell her you love her. Your stress and anxiety levels escalate as you realise you need to book in to see a neurologist immediately! You don’t have time to waste…Google just said you’re dying!

This is cyberchondria.

When Dr Google (our 21st century go-to genius technology) convinces someone they have a health issue or disease after searching medical websites and they experience heightened levels of anxiety.

You can’t deny it; we’ve all googled a health symptom at least once. BUT, what we seem to forget is that Google doesn’t have face-to-face interaction with us, nor does Google know our medical history. We forget Google is powered by search-engine-optimised websites, biasely designed to show us the most talked about, most search for, most interesting and most popular diseases.

Stop Dr Google is here to remind you… ‘Don’t let the web, get to your head’.