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Does googling our medical symptoms make us sicker – and is software ‘cheating the world’?

Great read via QZ.com and Dr. Mary Aiken

“Every year, Americans spend at least $20 billion on unnecessary medical visits in the US. This is one of the drivers behind the spiraling cost of health care, which is predicted to soar to $5.5 trillion by 2024. The last thing you’d imagine is that the internet would have anything to do with this…Most medical professionals aren’t too happy about the self-diagnosis trend. It isn’t simply a matter of loss of control or an undermining of their authority though online medical searches—it can mess with the diagnostic process, because the results can suggest rare or morbid conditions to patients, which in turn can prompt the appearance of new “symptoms.” You search online for “sore throat,” for instance, and find yourself engrossed and horrified by descriptions of esophageal cancer. Your anxiety escalates”

“The web has the potential to increase anxieties of people who have little or no medical training,” White and Horvitz concluded, “especially when web search is employed as a diagnostic procedure.” Now, seven years later, even Google admits that “health content on the web can be difficult to navigate, and tends to lead people from mild symptoms to scary and unlikely conditions, which can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress… It’s time for medical ethics to migrate online. The question is: Can Dr. Google abide by one of the main tenets of the Hippocratic oath, which doctors swear to at the beginning of their medical practice? Primum non nocere—”First, do no harm.”

Googling our medical symptoms is making us sicker

Gerd comments:  in a way… maybe software isn’t just eating the world… but also cheating it, increasingly?

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