Our interconnected world presents many opportunities for new knowledge. Indeed, this abundance has come to include medical, diagnostic, and online pharmacy websites. The immediate availability of medical information has come to the fore in the debate over the spread of information over the web. In the UK, for example, 81% of patients consult websites first before visiting a physician, according to a study by Lloydspharmacy. Because of the prevalence of these medical websites, it is challenging to figure out what information is medically accurate and which are unreliable. How much knowledge is too much knowledge?
Why is self-diagnosis prevalent?
Virtually every patient has performed some kind of self-diagnosis. Most of it is relatively harmless, and self-diagnoses are safe if the primary symptoms consist of a cold, a slight fever, or body pain. Websites offering self-diagnosis services normally ask that a patient provide a list of their symptoms. Alternatively, some websites already have a list of symptoms and invite patients to check their symptoms against the different ones posted on their websites. This method is considerably cheaper than consulting a doctor and is definitely more convenient.
When a patient consults an online medical site, and then orders pharmaceutical productsfrom an online pharmacy, the risk in this practice goes up, especially if the medication cures only the symptoms and not the causes of any particular condition.
The dangers of self diagnosis
While the information on legitimate websites can be helpful in halting the spread of a disease, an extended use of these websites to diagnose every single illness certainly results in a higher number of misdiagnoses. Because there are almost 400,000 websites offering medical information, sorting out symptoms can be quite confusing. This information can only be sorted out by a medical professional.
Professional diagnosis is a process which involves a more complicated approach than self-diagnosis. A licensed doctor frequently observes a patient during consultation and allows him to explain his symptoms in great detail. That physician may order some tests, such as a blood test or MRI, and these tests are usually available only in a hospital or diagnostic laboratory. When results become available, the doctor interprets and discusses them with the patient, who is then given a prescription for pharmaceutical products. A reliable online drugstore is a very convenient way to purchase these products, given the time and resources saved.
Should I still consult online health websites?
Online health information websites are very informative. They provide patients with preliminary research before consulting a doctor. Well-researched sites like government health websites are especially valuable, because they provide current and accurate information. However, these websites should not be the last stop in the journey to recovery from any symptom or disease.
Consultation with a licensed doctor is still the best option for any patient. Commonly, people without medical training assume that symptoms point to a disease that they do not have. This causes unnecessary panic. These patients who misdiagnose themselves are prone to buying medicines online. Such purchases may be totally unnecessary, inappropriate, or even deadly. Only a doctor should make such decisions, especially when that decision involves the intake of potentially harmful pharmaceutical products.
Online self-diagnosis is a phenomenon that continues to grow. More websites offering such information will be available in the future. However, extreme care needs to be taken when taking information from such websites. The safest option for any patient, after consulting medical websites, is to visit a qualified medical professional. Lives may be at stake, and mistakes in diagnosis often mean that a disease spirals out of control until too late. This is an avoidable situation, and proper diagnosis must be the goal of every doctor and every patient.