Dr. Brad Raphael


More people are looking to the internet and social media as a first line of defense for diagnosing ailments.  As the health care climate changes, new insurance costs and regulations are causing patients to look for quick and free advice for their injuries and symptoms. 

A new poll shows that 59% of U.S. adults say they use the internet for answers regarding their health.  Almost 35% of these individuals use the information they find to self-diagnose their ailments.  This has created a new trend called “cyberchondria”. More and more patients are using blogs, social media, and search engines to search their symptoms and create a diagnosis.  Many times these diagnoses are incorrect and can cause a delay in receiving important treatment.  Sometimes, the opposite can be true.  Are you, or someone you know, one of the people that plug their symptoms into a website only to self-diagnose yourself with the most serious illness listed? This can cause avoidance to seek a health care professional for fear of receiving a life threatening diagnosis.  Instead of learning of an overuse injury that can easily be treated with conservative care, they avoid seeking treatment which causes the problem to worsen.  Now they have increased pain, which increases their anxiety, making treatment more difficult.

Even with the recent legislation to increase access to health insurance, there are still many Americans who either can’t afford, or choose not to purchase an insurance plan.  This makes going to a health care professional cost prohibitive.  Even with health insurance, costs associated with doctor visits, urgent cares, or emergency rooms can be expensive.  Combine this with the increased use of social media and health blogging, and the internet is a cheap and fast way for people to obtain a diagnosis without leaving their own home.

It’s important to remember that if you’re injured and your symptoms are getting worse, or not improving with rest that you seek medical attention from a health care professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis after a thorough history and physical.  You may also need further testing to rule out a more serious problem. Relying on an internet diagnosis can cause a delay in treatment which could cause the condition to worsen and even require more invasive intervention.

Statistical Source: Pew Research and 

Dangers of Online Self-Diagnosis

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