I have been a registered nurse for over 6 years and although I grew up in the 90’s and think of myself as being tech-savvy, I have my reservations about patients self-diagnosing through the internet. Let me start off with the positive aspects of internet diagnosing. Our lives are busier than ever before and I for one would rather get home and spend some quality time with the family, instead of waiting for a doctor after work. So, yes the online diagnosing adds a convenience factor to our lives! To be quite honest, a lot of non-serious health concerns, like a mild cold, allergy or even small injury can be properly managed with over the counter medicines and remedies found on-line. This approach helps patients feel empowered and in control of their health. Furthermore, it reduces the burden on our already drained healthcare system and allows resources to be allocated to patients that really need them.

Now what worries me about online self-diagnosing? After treating hundreds of patients and seeing all the illnesses and diseases that could have been missed if a patient had not been there physically, it worries me that patients would not get the proper diagnosis by solely relying on the internet. Your health and illnesses are complex and sometimes there are no black and white answers to your health concerns. Physicians are able to do several tests and assessments that are not available at your fingertips online. Certain illnesses require you to go and see your doctor and online diagnosing has the potential to give inaccurate information and delay the patient in seeking proper treatment. This delay can be life-threatening for some health conditions, like cancer. Now that being said, online search results can also lead a completely healthy individual to think he has a devastating illness. The term used for this is “cyberchondriac”. These individuals think that any small symptom, like a cough or minor headache is a serious illness. They start researching and convincing themselves that their symptoms match some life-threatening illness. I would like to share an example of a friend who was trapped in this boat, until she went to visit a doctor!!! She had a muscle pain in her neck for about a week and after researching this online, was convinced that she would die of meningitis. After going to the doctor and doing the appropriate tests, she discovered it was because she had been falling asleep on her sofa every night.

So what’s my personal opinion on online diagnosis? Know when to use it and when to sacrifice that evening walk with your husband and just camp out at the doctor’s office because your doctor went to school for all those years for a reason!

About The Author

Naureen Ali
Registered Nurse

A registered nurse with six years of nursing experience, both in hospital and clinical settings. Naureen graduated Summa-Cum-Laude from York University in Toronto, Ontario.

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