If you are one of many, well like all of us in the search for information relative to healthcare today, the self diagnosing trends are alive and well.  With the wealth of information we have available, it is easy to do a little reading and self diagnose yourself with an entire multitude of diseases, problems, etc. based on information found such as symptoms, but symptoms are only part of the story and many issues share the same symptoms, so in essence before you decide it is time to visit the ER room, you could have yourself mentally lying on your death bed and this is what cyberchondria is all about. 

Let’s say only looking at symptoms and not including perhaps some medications being taken, well that leaves out some side effects that may need to be ruled out too.  When arriving at the ER room without any type of documentation, especially when one is not feeling at their imagebest may relate to something like “I take the blue pill twice a day, the white one in the morning, and the red one when I need it, but it gives me a headache too”. 

So now that we have “colored pills” added to the solution, well you get the idea here, so if perhaps information was referenced by searching for at least one or two medications, add on symptoms, and perhaps a little additional reading elsewhere, you just know you are going to die, (grin), and of course that is not the case most of the time.  

The study from Microsoft is pretty detailed and discusses how this entire phenomenon gets started and the levels of distractions created both personally and professionally, and where did you get that information too.  I always suggest to read up on health conditions and keep yourself aware but like everything else, it is the interpretation that is key.  As information technology continues to grow, so do the references we have on the web, some very good, and some otherwise.  Your regular primary care physician is going to be more in tune with your health as whether they are paper or electronic, they are going to have some history in place, which versus a first visit to the ER, well there is no comparison with information available, but the primary doctors get this too with patients over diagnosing and patients bringing in a book of printed pages they read from the internet. 

So when does self diagnosing and knowledge meet actual conditions and diseases, different for everyone and distracting at different levels too and not going away anytime soon as more information is posted to the web.  Web rankings too about who has the best information available on healthcare tend to add a bit more confusion to the pot as well. 

This comes back around to one of my favorite subjects again and that is the personal health record, or PHR.  Both Microsoft and Google are attempting to add related material, mined and specifically oriented toward what is in the chart, and that is not 100%, but what is, however if information is mined relative to your medications, conditions, and past medical history is a good start to hopefully getting much closer and not just a random search across the web for information, based on who has the best ratings for information.  The entire idea of having educational information presented that is relative to what is listed in my record could sure stand up to not only keep my perhaps directed in the right area, but shoot look at the time it might save too.

We are never going to see the end of information overload in the world today, and methodologies to seek and find the relativity will always be in big demand, and that will continue to change as healthcare continues to evolve too, it may work today, but could be outdated tomorrow, thus now you are seeing the one key item of “preferences” coming in to play as well.  Nobody wants to keep learning a new system and programmers don’t want to keep writing them as well, so flexibility with being able to personalized how software and searches work for you is the key. 

Take the time and personalize as much information as you can and it will get rid of much of the other junk you may not need and get closer to the items at hand, as misdiagnosis takes additional time away from the consultation process as well. I think the HealthVault PHR will be narrowing down these functions as the PHR continues to grow as well, so hopefully some assistance in drilling down and filtering what we may really need and want to know and maybe keep some of the distractions down to a minimum.  BD

The full study can be read here. 

If that headache plaguing you this morning led you first to a Web search and then to the conclusion that you must have a brain tumor, you may instead be suffering from cyberchondria.

The study suggests that self-diagnosis by search engine frequently leads Web searchers to conclude the worst about what ails them.

The researchers said they had undertaken the study as part of an effort to add features to Microsoft’s search service that could make it more of an adviser and less of a blind information retrieval tool.



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