28.10.2014

If you feel sick, do you google your symptoms to diagnose yourself?

If you feel sick, do you google your symptoms to diagnose yourself?

Image | Helpouts Google

These days we search for everything on Google, from the most mundane to really complex things, but we don´t always know which pages offer us trustworthy information or which cover topics superficially with inaccurate data.

With medicine it´s even more precarious. When we search on Google to self-diagnose ourselves, those of us who do not have any medical training are not always capable of differentiating the severity of the case. For example, if something is serious or characteristic for our age, or much less the implications it can have. For this reason, doctors warn of the dangers of self-diagnosing illnesses by searching on Google.

A recent study in the United States by Pew Internet confirmed that 59% of Americans admit to having looked up illnesses on the internet and 35% looked up illnesses that they could have. The most worrying is that 38% decided that they could cure themselves with home remedies.

According to the study, only 41% obtained confirmation of a medical diagnosis, 2% had a partial confirmation while 35% did not seek a professional’s opinion, 18% received a different diagnosis and 1% did not get a conclusive diagnosis.

Among the people most likely to self diagnose themselves on the internet are women and people with higher education. 77% of medical searches are done directly in a search engine and not on specialized sites, like WebMD, that only gets 13% of searches. Furthermore, 2% of people search on Wikipedia and 1% ask on Facebook.

This is a problem for doctors, who can be put in contradiction to what the patient reads on the internet, who often brings the search results printed. This could easily generate mistrust on the side of the patient towards the doctor. Moreover, the poor quality of available information online does not help.

If you feel sick, do you google your symptoms to diagnose yourself?

To channel all of this traffic safetly for patients, Google is testing to launch a service that will allow you to talk to a doctor through a video chat whenever you make a basic search about health. This service, that will form a part of the Google Helpouts, is free while it´s in beta period, but could be a paid service when they launch openly, if it does.

There are some similar services to what Google is testing: iCouch.me provides psychological and pyschiological services through videochat at market prices, and it is likely that mental illnesses are the easiest to treat from distance.

Medicine is a science too complex; to make a complete diagnosis you have to keep too many factors in mind, many computers and the Internet are still not capable of giving a correct diagnosis without a specialist´s intervention. Although it is likely some day that we see technology capable of diagnosing from a distance and automatically diagnosing some diseases.

The mHealth competence centre forms part of Mobile World Capital Barcelona’s Programme of International Competence Centers (PCCI). mHealth works with a three-fold objective: to identify mobile technology opportunities in the provision of health services, to transform current healthcare models and processes, and promote the interoperability of health services in the field of mobile technologies and connectivity, building foundations that make it possible to integrate mobile health solutions.

Mobile World Capital presents a global vision that effectively integrates mobile technologies into the fabric of the industries transforming our lives. Committed to expanding the mobile experience throughout Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain with strong support of the public and private sector.

Mobile World Capital is leading mobile transformation through commitments in Competence Centres, local Industry Development, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation programmes.

MWCapital offers an open platform and exhibition showroom where citizens can understand and experience how mobile is enhancing our lives: The Mobile World Centre, located in the heart of Barcelona on Plaza Catalunya.

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