While the internet has been a boon to society in many ways, the area of responsible health care is suffering from a case of ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.
The internet is full of contradicting information and armchair pseudo health experts, armed with misleading or false information or worse still, trying to sell their products. Their advice can be dodgy at best and lethal at worst.
If you need more convincing, read on.
A Dangerous Reliance
A survey conducted in 2014 through RACGP found that 28.1% of the nearly 3000 patients questioned had turned to the web for health advice within the previous month. Whilst sites such as WebMd and Wikipedia can give valuable insights into symptoms and basic management of diagnosed illnesses, there are thousands of sites where unqualified laymen are espousing their ‘miracle’ cures, opinions or DIY treatments.
The majority of medical advice obtained online is given without any background knowledge of the patient or their medical history.
The results can have tragic consequences for those who may delay visiting a professional bulk billing doctor based on this ill-informed information. Accurate diagnosis and early treatment can circumvent numerous health conditions.
Some examples of this are:
- Cancer in all its forms – has a wide range of symptoms and signs which can easily be mistaken for harmless annoyances such as headaches, a persistent cough or a cold.
- Heart attack – the signs of a heart attack have often been mistaken for simple indigestion. Delay visiting a medical professional to accurately diagnose this condition, can result in irreparable damage to the heart muscles or worse.
- Multiple sclerosis – can mimic the symptoms of a viral infection.
- Food allergies – food allergies and sensitivities such as celiac disease have a range of contradictory symptoms which can mimic IBD (irritable bowel disease) and a number of other illnesses. Early diagnosis, especially in childhood, assists in management of the effects of the allergens.
The Victorian Government-affiliated Better Health Channel has also touched on the issue of gathering health information from online sources. In their piece discussing reliable health information, Better Health argue that a lack of “gatekeeper” or review process with newly developed websites makes it difficult to accurately determine the validity of information offered.
With that said, there are also a variety of reliable sources of medical information online, such as the Australian Medical Association and Cancer Council Victoria, which shouldn’t be discounted when discussing the ambiguity of trusting online publications.
Don’t leave your family’s health to chance. For the best in healthcare, consult trained medical professionals who have a comprehensive range of services and testing facilities to properly diagnose and treat you.
Star Health is a community conscious, health service. We have specialised practitioners in every sector of healthcare, working to grow a better, more ethical and healthier community and world.