Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 18

Thread: Are you a cyberchondriac - asking Dr Google about health questions?

  1. #1
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    4,711

    Are you a cyberchondriac - asking Dr Google about health questions?

    Wasn't quite sure where to post this but it impacts families and communication about health or sick-care issues.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/second...0407-1.4608410

    Quotes:

    Eye twitching? Weird stomach pain? Leg cramp? Is it a symptom of a serious disease? Beware the temptation to ask Dr. Google.

    A recent study suggests internet health searching could make you feel worse. It could leave you even less informed. And you're also potentially revealing private health information.

    It's part of a growing body of research into the potential side-effects of consulting the internet about health issues — something that creates a risk of "cyberchondria."

    University of Waterloo computer scientist Amira Ghenai decided to investigate this phenomenon for her PhD thesis in part because she was being bombarded with internet health advice from her mother.

    "She gets messages from her friends, she looks online for information and then she forwards it to us," said Ghenai, who worried about the potential for harm if people chase unproven treatments. "I had a feeling this topic has a huge impact on people's lives."

    To determine how people are influenced by internet health searches, Ghenai designed an experiment that presented artificial search results for a series of health questions. For example, one question asked whether cinnamon would treat diabetes. (It won't.)

    The study found that people were confused by the search results, and they ended up having the wrong impression more often than if they'd just guessed based on what they already knew.

    'They were convinced they had cancer'

    Part of the problem is that Dr. Google's answers hinge on the words in the question.

    "People use search engines but they're not aware of how they work," said Ghenai.

    If the query is phrased "Does cinnamon help diabetes?" the search engine displays documents that contain the words "cinnamon," "help" and "diabetes."

    Anything matching those words will show up high in the results, a mix of true and false information from various sources, but people will take away an impression based on whatever the consensus of the results seems to show. People may then make decisions "regardless of the truth," Ghenai said.

    That ability to get an instant diagnosis has turned many people into cyberchondriacs.

    University of Georgia communications researcher Carolyn Lauckner saw her friends doing it.

    "Whether it was a headache or some strange abdominal pain, and they Googled it and they were immediately convinced they had cancer," she said.

    In 2013, Lauckner designed an experiment to see if she could see this happening in real time, manipulating the results people saw in an internet health search and then monitoring their moods.

    She discovered that people formed a quick impression just from scanning the search results, without even following the links
    "They were more likely to feel frightened or overwhelmed based on how we manipulated the search results," said Lauckner.

    "So the way that things appear on a search results page are really important — maybe even above and beyond what the actual web pages say."

    As a new mother, Lauckner said she had to stop doing internet health searches.

    "I was Googling every symptom she was experiencing — and of course it's always the worst thing possible could be happening to your baby, so I had to say enough is enough. It was causing too much anxiety."

    'The web is not your doctor'

    Not only can you end up freaking yourself out when you visit Dr. Google, you could also be unwittingly revealing personal information.

    Oxford University researcher Tim Libert cautions that Dr. Google will not respect privacy.

    "The web is not your doctor. People treat the web like a doctor, but the web is not taking the Hippocratic oath," said Libert, whose paper "What web browsing reveals about your health" was published in the BMJ in 2015.

    "You should treat it like talking to a guy in a park with a megaphone."

    He said every time you visit a web page seeking information about a health condition there is a chance that data is being collected by third parties.

    "The number of companies tracking you online is really huge," he said. "Some of those companies make lists of people and sell that."

    Health information can be sensitive, yet there is little regulation over how this information is collected, how long it's kept and how it's used, he wrote in the BMJ.

    Canada's privacy watchdog ruled in 2014 that Google's use of sensitive health information violated Canada's privacy laws after it allowed advertisements to be directed at a consumer who had searched for devices to treat sleep apnea.

    "Our office is of the view that that personal health information (i.e. online activities and viewing history of health-related websites) is sensitive," said Anne-Marie Cenaiko, spokesperson for the office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. "Advertisers should avoid collecting sensitive personal information, such as individuals' health information, for the purpose of delivering tailored ads."...

    If the query is phrased "Does cinnamon help diabetes?" the search engine displays documents that contain the words "cinnamon," "help" and "diabetes."

    Anything matching those words will show up high in the results, a mix of true and false information from various sources, but people will take away an impression based on whatever the consensus of the results seems to show. People may then make decisions "regardless of the truth," Ghenai said."

    It's part of a growing body of research into the potential side-effects of consulting the internet about health issues — something that creates a risk of "cyberchondria."
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    1,836
    If you sign up for pharmacy reward cards they also sell your personal information, including to insurers, even though the pre-existing condition they think you have could be due to a prescription you are picking up for a family member. Obamacare prevents some of this, but pre-existing conditions can still be taken into consideration when issuing things like life insurance policies.

  3. #3
    Senior Member JaneV2.0's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    8,925
    I'm not any kind of hypochondriac, and I find Dr. Google invaluable, personally.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Posts
    2,071
    Yes, my experience is that Googling symptoms can produce some really helpful parameters in figuring out what might be wrong, when something is obviously wrong. Two examples from my own life are diagnosing my dog's condition, diagnosing my husband's condition in the last two episodes he had--I came to same conclusion as doctors came to, and they ruled out or confirmed from a group of about three conditions, so it got us down to a much smaller diagnostic universe. So I am not at all sure why the article is so hostile to people using their heads, which is basically what doctors do, too, when they try to figure out what is going on.

    You obviously don't go to the doctor and say hey, my husband has a dvt, but you know from your research that that is one of top three things it might be, and that will be the rule out, as it is the most serious.

    The doctor is the one who can run the tests, etc., but let's say you do get a diagnosis--then you can get educated on treatments, surgical options, etc. So again, I don't agree about internet research turning people into hypochondriacs.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Posts
    408
    Dr Google, my go to. Back in the day there was Ask a Nurse an 800 number to get questioned answered. With little ones I used this all the time really. Dr Google has saved me trips to Doctor, saved me worry too. I do not assume I have the worse, so I guess when reading I absorb the best what ifs. I think it prepares me for the trip to the doctor or the afterwards to educate myself on a topic. It has made my life far more simple than back in the day.

    I use the term, Dr Google said, often

  6. #6
    Senior Member JaneV2.0's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    8,925
    Dr. Google helped me diagnose a friend's abdominal migraine (while doctors scratched their heads) and a gall bladder attack. I find her/his help top notch and blissfully free of price-gouging, drug-pushing, and prejudice. And all from the comfort of my armchair, so to speak.

  7. #7
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    4,711
    Have to confess that when I needed a recipe for rice and chicken dish for my dog's diarrhea, I checked vet sites on Dr G. Saved the vet bill.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

  8. #8
    Senior Member flowerseverywhere's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    2,269
    Sometimes I look to see what info is out there. But now that there is so much compromise of personal information I wonder. Of course I am one of those people who would bore an investigator to death if they checked my histories but I am a huge believer in confidentiality and privacy. Both of which are pretty much thrown right out the window in cyber world.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Gardenarian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    4,013
    I have a rare condition affecting my hearing and after seeing multiple doctors who were at a loss I diagnosed myself. I told my doctor what medicine I should be taking and provided her with multiple peer-reviewed articles to support my diagnosis and treatment. And it worked!

    I have also self-diagnosed my hip problem and am undertaking self-physical therapy. I've seen improvement in 6 weeks, with no negative effects. Time will have to tell if I'm on the right path, but I have a good feeling about it.

    I'm a research librarian, so I'm not relying on WebMD or Dr. Mercola to solve my health problems - but I think they probably have helpful information too.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Simplemind's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    850
    After my husband's stroke we were sent home with nothing. We were not offered any type of therapy and were told that most improvement would happen within the first 6 months and then level out. We weren't willing to accept that. I basically put myself through med school with the internet after that. We ended up with our own protocol for diet and exercise. I learned there was a type of physician I had never heard of (physiatrist) and we found one to take us on with alternative therapies. I didn't have a lot of trust with doctors since his dizziness had been misdiagnosed as vertigo and an ear problem instead of mini strokes leading to the big one. He had indigestion following his stroke which was poo poo'd and he was told to take tums. After that didn't resolve I started researching that, found heart problems often follow a stroke, pushed for a second opinion and he was in surgery within 24 hours after that second opinion (a hair short of a heart attack) getting a stent. You are the expert in your own body.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •