“Whatever you do, don’t check with Dr Google.” I’ve read that advice online quite a lot. Yet, the last couple of times I have been to my local doctor with an issue outside of the ordinary, the first question I was asked by the practitioner if I had Googled my symptoms.
I always have a quandary with anything medical. I don’t want to be the person castigated on the evening news for calling 999 because I had a splinter I couldn’t get out of my dog’s foot. I don’t want to bother the stretched NHS that the newspapers tell us about with my ponderings about whether I might be developing a stiff joint which is an early sign of arthritis. I mean, people live with arthritis. Then I read stories of cancer that was undiagnosed; children whose life was saved because their mother listened to their intuition and fought for a second opinion and was proved right.
So of course I am going to dabble in self-diagnosis by Googling symptoms. I am going to be sure that I am bothering medical professional with the right things. And, to be honest, sometimes I only remember that I had a twinge or ache which may or may not be something that could be sinister when I have half-an-hour to kill, and I use the internet on my phone whilst parked up outside school. If I had a newborn now it would completely set my mind at rest to find similarly sleep-deprived mothers to chat to on twitter at 3am about feeding issues. I toy with the idea of activating the health app on my smart phone so I can count my steps every day. But I can’t figure out how to do it and don’t care enough to try.
The technology is at our fingertips. Yet neither Google, not health apps, even the NHS Direct website; none of the information we access from the technology we carry in our pockets has any medical training, and real life experience of treating actual patients with genuine symptoms. Endless hours poring over circumstantial stories will do nothing to treat the problem you may have. They in fact give you another: cyberchondria, the ability to find illness where none exists.
Disclosure: this is a sponsored post on behalf of Legal & General.