The internet has made me a jack of many trades. Chef extraordinaire, plumbing expert and political pundit were among the many hats I have worn this past month, much to my family’s delight and dismay. Thinking back to my college experience, I could never have imagined the abundance of information at my fingertips in seconds without having stepped foot into a library. In this reality of instant information, the world is your oyster! However, if your oyster consumption precedes a hepatitis diagnosis, there is an important caveat that begs you to slow down and proceed with caution when asking “Dr. Google.”
Vague symptoms such as headache and fatigue can easily lead to conclusion leaps of unlikely conditions causing agitation and stress. A new term, cyberchondria, is used to describe those who suffer from this self-inflicted anxiety.
Then there are those who search the internet after receiving sobering news. If you are facing a serious medical diagnosis and are feeling under-informed and overwhelmed, you are not alone. But, please know that heading full throttle into the internet abyss fueled by panic and fear can certainly do more harm than good.
The frustration associated with internet searches is that you will find both up-to-the-minute and outdated archived content. Be mindful of that and look for dates of the findings, if possible.
It is imperative to view information through a somewhat skeptical lens. As much as we want to believe what we read, the internet in general and medical information posted is not a commercial free zone. Advertisements pop up even before you click a link.
Remember, anyone can post to the internet and scams are everywhere. Older adults who are new adopters to searching online may have difficulty deciphering credible sites. Just because a medically oriented website looks impressive does not mean it is backed by health care professionals..
I highly recommend the book “The Web-Savvy Patient: An Insider’s Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis” by Andrew Schorr. It is a comprehensive guide to becoming an empowered advocate for your own health and the health of your loved ones.
The technological advances that my children have grown up with are blessings and curses of biblical proportions. In this world we have scholarly articles and medical scams on the same web page. It is a world where we are never bored and seldomly creative. Knowledge is power. Dr. Google’s orders: Use the internet with the guidance of your physician and not in place of sound medical advice.
Bob Roth is managing partner of Phoenix-based Cypress HomeCare Solutions.