I was recently at a medical conference that was discussing the power that the internet has and how it is shaping the medical landscape. During the conference I was lucky enough to meet the highly skilled, super professional and very ethical surgical oncologist John Kang, a remarkable man who has long been a fan of the advancements that we make in medical technology and was once the chairman of Liquidmetal. I spoke to John about how great the internet is for patients and doctors alike and whilst he agreed, he was keen to talk about how dangerous it can be when patients decide to check out their symptoms online. It is something that we probably all do, and here is why Dr. Kang thinks it should probably be avoided.
Under the moniker John Kang WebMD the good doctor is a regular contributor to the website WebMD and he believes that it can be used as a wonderful resource. With this being said he believes that it should be used as a resource for medical professionals to learn and for patients to gain a better understanding of their issues, but only after diagnosis. The information on the site is wonderful he tells me but it must be processed and used correctly, otherwise it can be dangerous.
Dr. John Kang MC tells me that for a simple symptom such as a rash on the arm, there could be over 100 different outcomes as to what the patient actually has. This rash could be a heat rash, an allergy, an insect bite or it could signify the early stages of heart disease, as you can see the spectrum of what it could be is incredibly broad. This is why patients mustn’t check out their symptoms online because they are simply not qualified to make a proper assessment of what they have, based on some online pictures and information.
Fearing the Worst
Everyone tries to stay healthy, but there is a common saying in the medical community about people who check their symptoms online, that ‘all roads lead to cancer’ and the fact of the matter is this is what actually happens. As humans we naturally fear the worst so a very slight symptom on the body could lead to a search which eventually returns the worst news imaginable. If you have a rash and you see that it could mean an allergy or heart disease, you will instantly believe that it is heart disease and start panicking. This is yet another reason why you shouldn’t self diagnose.
If you check your symptoms online and dread the worst you will end up going to see the doctor, which is what you should have done in the first place. The difference here however is that if you do research online and believe that you have a real issue, you will only spend the time worrying whilst you wait to see the doctor.
The lesson here is to only trust the doctor when checking symptoms, and not online sources.