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Should You Google Your Symptoms?

Why using Google for health issues might not be as bad as we think
January 4, 2018 | Comments

Is googling symptoms a great idea or a terrible idea? It’s pretty easy to quickly see what’s wrong with this approach. Many people know firsthand that this can lead to a heightened state of anxiety and even lead to unnecessary trips to the doctor, which may in turn lead to unnecessary diagnostic tests and in some cases unnecessary procedures. As a result, we often hear the advice that we should avoid googling health questions altogether. This activity can only lead to no good, leaving us feeling anxious, more confused than ever, and maybe even wasting time and money.

But this might not be the whole story, and there’s reason to believe this advice may also not be entirely sound. It turns out that we actually don’t know a ton about how exactly people use the Internet to navigate health issues but that from the limited data we do have, it seems that the news may not be all bad. As many as 50% of people who use the Internet to search health-related items do so on behalf another person. This is a kind of health-related Internet search that even healthcare providers encourage, as it usually makes for better, more engaged care.

With this in mind, Critica co-founder and CEO Sara Gorman recently wrote a piece for Quartz on how best to use Google to learn more about health issues without becoming excessively anxious, confused, or seeking unnecessary care. You can read the piece here. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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