Internet Health Info, Should We?
Why people search the net and what are the risks
There is a shout out circulating in social media. “For those who self-diagnosed their symptoms on Google can have the second opinion on Yahoo.” People with health conditions turn to online resources to help manage their illness. Why? What’s prompting patients to do this?
Problem. Although the doctor remains the primary source of credible health information, surveys show 40-80% of what the doctor said is forgotten immediately after consultation. Worse, from that which are remembered, 50% is recalled incorrectly. Before a person can truly follow the recommended treatment and achieve the best outcome, one must understand the illness and be satisfied with the courses of action to be taken. If not met, people go to the internet for explanation.
Proof. From the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission – Internet Users Survey 2017, there are 86.9% of internet users relying on the Internet to look for information, majority of them (77.2%) did look for health information online. The most common health related information that users were seeking were on ‘symptoms and diseases’ (91.4%), followed by ‘health care tips’ (89.8%) and “treatment method” (83.5%). Over half of them were looking for “medications/drugs information” (73.7%), as well as “place to get treatment”.
Potential risks for patients. Limitations of internet health information, especially social media, include the following:
- Not sure if the information is updated and credible
- Confidentiality and privacy may be breached
- Harmful or incorrect advice may be encountered
- Overload of information and
- Not sure of how the information can be applied to personal health issues.
Possible solutions. The doctor remains the key source of medical information because they are the primary guardian of patients’ health. There are also websites like “a:care” that provide quick access to credible, easy-to-understand medical information that will improve doctor-patient interaction. In these websites, contents are generated from treatment guidelines, peer-reviewed medical journals and information are offered free of cost.
INTERNET USERS SURVEY 2017. Retrieve from https://www.mcmc.gov.my/skmmgovmy/media/General/pdf/MCMC-Internet-Users-Survey-2017.pdf . Accessed on 16 June 2019
Moorhead SA, Hazlett DE et al. J Med Internet Res. 2013 Apr; 15(4): e85.