Monday, Oct. 06, 2008

Google Abuse

How many eager patients with broadband connections we see in miserable straits after their attempt at computer-guided self-treatment. Often, patients do thorough, vigorous research but still end up missing essential medical basics, which delay their recovery and occasionally cause harm. Yes, a few nights of Boolean sleuthing might render you more knowledgeable than your doctor about a particular issue — and more power to you for your interest. But keep in mind that most of the medical information on the Internet was put there, ultimately, to make money — and much of it is not information at all. There is so much pure medical baloney on the Web that unless you actually practice medicine, it's hard to recognize. Doctors have one real advantage: we can tell if a treatment works and if it's safe because we've seen it, used it and studied it in the real, analog world. (Even the content of our own prestigious journals and textbooks can be confused, contradictory or sometimes just plain wrong.) If you want to be your own doctor, apply to medical school — it's a lot easier getting in now since the fees have gone down.

That being said, I'm the first to admit that offbeat health sites suck me in too. But there are trustworthy medical websites where you can check your findings: WebMD and the Harvard University patient-education sites.