Patients under pressure to order tests as a result of Dr Google. Picture: Supplied
Patients under pressure to order tests as a result of Dr Google. Picture: Supplied

Dr Google could be putting your life at risk

LIFE threatening medical problems aren't being treated and taxpayers are footing the bill for unnecessary medical tests as an increasing number of Australians are led astray by Dr Google.

Doctors have told News Corp patients are quitting their medications and misdiagnosing themselves as a result of searching for heath information online.

"I've seen people successfully convince themselves that a lump in their armpit was a sebaceous cyst when it was breast cancer," emergency physician and former Australian Medical Association Vice president Dr Stephen Parnis told News Corp.

"They presented months later than they should have to a doctor and the cancer was diagnosed at a later stage than it should have been," he said.

Dr Stephen Parnis says people who use Dr Google misdiagnose themselves.
Dr Stephen Parnis says people who use Dr Google misdiagnose themselves.

New research has found more than half (54 per cent) of all Australians use Google at least weekly to look up medical questions and symptoms, and almost three in four (72 per cent) said they have at least once used Google to address their health needs instead of visiting a doctor.

More than 40 per cent of respondents use Google as their only source of information at least half of the time, when searching for medical information.

The survey of 1500 Australians by medical software firm MedicalDirector also found two in three people used the search engine to self diagnose and four in ten became convinced they had a life threatening or terminal illness after searching symptoms online.

"The convenience of looking up health information on Google can easily turn from a habit to a full-blown addiction. I've seen many patients who just can't seem to stop Googling their symptoms, to the point where they need an actual intervention from family and friends to stop them doing it," Dr Charlotte Middleton, GP and Chief Clinical Adviser at MedicalDirector said.

Among the most common reasons for internet health searches were information on cold and flu medicines (51 per cent), mental health (18 per cent), cancer (7 per cent) and sexual health (6 per cent), the survey found.

 

Young people are more likely to rely on Dr Google. Picture: iStock
Young people are more likely to rely on Dr Google. Picture: iStock

Australian Medical Association ethics expert GP Dr Chris Moy said Dr Google had completely changed the power balance in the doctor patient relationship, it was making patients anxious and costing taxpayers money as people demand unnecessary scans.

A common example was patients visiting their GP demanding a brain scan because an internet search had convinced them their headache was a brain cancer, he said.

"Patients are insisting on something that may not be clinically reasonable and when they force the situation you try to do the right thing but they keep coming back to see you and sometimes you can predict they will force you into it," he said.

Asked if Dr Google was seeing health resources and health spending wasted he said "absolutely".

Dr Parnis said Dr Google was also driving more people to emergency departments as they worry symptoms they have looked up online may be more serious than they are.

So-called cyberchondria is causing enormous anxiety in some patients, according to RACGP spokesman Dr Cameron Loy.

"I've had a patient in their mid-30s who developed a headache and was convinced it was a stroke or a brain tumour and we were able to shepherd her into a different diagnosis and give her treatment," he said.

 

Four in ten patients fear they have a life-threatening illness after consulting Dr Google. Picture: Getty Images
Four in ten patients fear they have a life-threatening illness after consulting Dr Google. Picture: Getty Images

Dr Moy said another key problem was patients quitting their medications after they searched for medicine side effects online.

"One of the great problems is the distortion you get online because only the people who had a bad experience (with a medicine) comment online and those people are very emphatic about their dislike of a medicine and it heightens the anxiety of people searching," he said.

The doctors said it was now a fact of life that patients would google health information but they stressed it was vital that before patients acted on it they should see their GP.

Searching for help online could be a good thing if it prompted patients to work out what they wanted to ask their doctors, Dr Parnis said.

Dr Loy's top tips for people who looked for information online include:

1. Be cautious when looking on the internet and use high quality and trusted sites like Healthdirect.

2. If you are concerned bring the information to your GP to discuss

3. Not every headache is a stroke, not every skin lesion is a melanoma, not every case of diarrhoea is bowel cancer.

 

 

Top 10 list most searched health questions 2018

1. What is the keto diet?

2. What is ALS disease?

3. What is endometriosis?

4. How long does weed stay in your urine?

5. How long does the flu last?

6. How long is the flu contagious?

7. When does implantation bleeding occur?

8. Why am I always tired?

9. What does heartburn feel like?

10. What causes high blood pressure?

 

Top 10 health websites visited globally January 2019 according to Ebiz/mba website

1. Web MD 80 million searches per month

2. NIH (National Institutes of Health) 55 million searches per month

3. yahooHealth 50.5 million searches per month

4. Julyoclinic 30 million searches per month

5. Medicinenet 25.5 million searches per month

6.Drugs.com 22 million searches per month

7. Everydayhealth 18 million searches per month

8. Healthgrades 17 million searches per month

9. Healthline 17 million searches per month

10.Mercola.com 15.5 million searches per month

 

.



Tributes flow for 'larrikin' killed in motorcycle crash

premium_icon Tributes flow for 'larrikin' killed in motorcycle crash

"HE WAS a larrikin, a dedicated friend and always put his family first."

WIN: Tickets to the Vodaphone Gold Coast 600

WIN: Tickets to the Vodaphone Gold Coast 600

It's time to party in paradise. Will you be there?

Coffs Coast home cook realises her dream of writing a book

premium_icon Coffs Coast home cook realises her dream of writing a book

SANDY Luhrs said she first fell in love with cooking as child.