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Why Dr Google is Never the Answer

Why Dr Google is Never the Answer

A doctor's stethoscope next to a laptop

With the politicians doing the rounds on the General Election campaign, one of the key issues coming up over and over again is the state of the NHS. There’s an urgent need for more doctors and nurses to be brought in to plug the holes in our seriously overstretched services.

As appointments with overworked GPs are harder to get than ever before, it’s little wonder that many of us turn to self-diagnosing our problems online. This seems like a quick and easy route to go down, but is this really the way to get the answers we want? Or the ones that are actually right for our problems? Here we take a look at whether it’s really safe to rely on Dr Google.

One of the major problems of going online to determine what might be wrong with us is the quality and accuracy of the information we find on the internet. The first wide-scale study of the accuracy of symptom checkers published in the BMJ found that these programs are often wrong. The senior author of the study Ateev Mehrotta says, “These tools may be useful in patients who are trying to decide whether they should get to a doctor quickly, but in many cases, users should be cautious and not take the information they receive from online symptom checkers as gospel.”

Essentially anyone can offer “expert” advice online, whether they might be posing as a health practitioner or someone knowledgeable in the field as opposed to a genuine real-world doctor who’s spent at least ten years training and going through medical school. Who would you trust?

One of the key reasons men search for advice and treatments of problems such as premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction is that they find the topics embarrassing and would rather have their sensitive questions answered anonymously. It’s totally understandable, but there really is no substitute for seeking out professional help in the real world. With typical waiting times for GP appointments getting longer it’s worth seeking a private service such as those offered by Harley Street Medical. They offer lots of services for men such as treatments for ED and hormone therapy.

Many seeking answers for their ailments seek out help and advice on forums. These tend to be dangerous places for diagnosis as they focus heavily on extremes. They’re often rabbit holes of wrongness where the symptoms of a common cough can quickly be upgraded to cancer at the stroke of someone’s keyboard. A new survey found that Reddit users are getting their STIs diagnosed by strangers online! Of course, cases such as STIs should always be tested by a registered professional – another red flag that tells you forums are definitely best avoided in all cases.

Chiefly, even if you are consulting a health professional online, they can only at best have limited knowledge of a person’s medical and social background and most important of all, no physical examination can be performed. It’s been proven that physical testing and knowledge of a patients history is an essential part of receiving an accurate diagnosis.

If you absolutely feel you have to look online, make sure to use official and nationally accredited sites such as the NHS website. It can be a great starting point when trying to work out what’s wrong with you, but we definitely advocate the personal touch when it comes to all of your health issues.

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