Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dr Google can make you nuts

DIY Medicine, via Google, breeds hypochondria, according to Chris Weller, writing about a paper on the effectiveness of search engines in finding medical diagnosis info (37th European Conference on Information Retrieval, 2015).

Don't I know it. Although I try to think through and vet the info I offer here, often I skid right onto the Google and scare myself to death!

My toe started hurting in the night. Gout! I bet! Wait--stress fracture? Does that look discolored (sorry, bad eyesight, don't know). OMG--I once knew someone who had a toe amputated--can you walk without a big toe? On and on.

Most people's first thought when they get an ache or twinge is not to call the doctor. It's to turn on the computer. Five billion searches a month are about health...and sadly...Dr Google turns out to be a quack.

If you already have a diagnosis, though, the search engine can help you find super specialists and detailed info.

If you don't get a clear diagnosis after one search, an expert says, you may do another. And another.

This results in cyberchondria.

Not helping--the algorithms---pages about brain cancer get more hits so users are driven to them.

Eeek. Help.

Wait--my toe feels a little better. Never mind.

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