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Fri, 12/09/2011

Misleading self-diagnosis with the help of Dr. Google

Once a month I get a free supplement with my daily newspaper. It is called Doppio and it is a monozine. That means each issue carries just one topic. Some weeks ago the topic was health.

There are some articles in the magazine, that might interest you. The first one I want to share a few thoughts from with you is the one about the habit of detecting illnesses on yourself you hear or read about elsewhere.

Self-diagnosis today is only a mouse click away. And what harm does is do to check out what maladies you have when you feel an itching here or find a strange spot there? Well it could lead you in the wrong direction. "To give a medical diagnosis is a highly complex thing to do – a doctor does not go for nothing to medical school for six years", Nina Buschek from the German health portal netdoktor says. Netdoktor sees itself not as a portal for self-diagnosis but as a place where patients can inform themselves about problems they actually have. “We do not want to encourage self-diagnosis, but want to close the communication gap between patient and doctor. We serve as interpreters and reference book for patients", summarizes Buschek.

This helps you to understand, but it can not replace a diagnosis from an actual doctor. For a layman, it is incredibly difficult to identify and correctly name ones medical condition. A doctor in a diagnosis always includes the whole person, his constitution, age and previous history and specifically asks for actual complaints. No search engine, no matter how clever it is designed, can replace the experience, the knowledge and the deductive thinking of a doctor.

The Internet also amplifies people fears. After researching on the net quite some people are convinced that it is far worse for them, than it actually is. U.S. researchers like Brian Fallon of Columbia University in New York call this a modern form of hypochondria – the "Cyberchondrie" since the trip inside the net reinforces the darkest visions.

But of course looking for information is a legit wish. Most people want to know more about the things that bug them. But it is a good idea not to start to image to have the illnesses themselves one reads about. Another is to use only websites, that spread reliable information, like the one of PGD International. Other websites you can recognize at the so-called HON logo which is issued by the Health on the Net Foundation. For this websites users can rely on the fact that each contribution includes the source and author and advertising is clearly separated from editorial content. Additionally users should note that the portals are independent. An imprint and a privacy policy suggest reliability.

But this – of course – does not prevent you from an incorrect diagnosis. Therefore you always should see your doctor or look out for one who is specialized in relieving you from your problems. This website is designed to help you in this search, e.g. by exploring our treatment specialities section.

And honestly! Don't one already spends too much time with the maladies one has, that one needs some imagined ones on top of it?