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Doctors Seeing a Rise In "Google-itis" 368

Posted by samzenpus
from the sounds-like-rickets-to-me dept.
It's one of the fastest-growing health issues that doctors now face: "Google-itis." Everyone from concerned mothers to businessmen on their lunch break are typing in symptoms and coming up with rare diseases or just plain wrong information. Many doctors are bringing computers into examination rooms now so they can search along with patients to alleviate their fears. "I'm not looking for a relationship where the patient accepts my word as the gospel truth," says Dr. James Valek. "I just feel the Internet brings so much misinformation to the (exam) room that we have to fight through all that before we can get to the problem at hand."

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Doctors Seeing a Rise In "Google-itis"

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  • Google-itis (Score:5, Informative)

    by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:34PM (#32241500)
    As made up words go, google-itis is particularly stupid, since it literally means "inflammation or irritation of the google."
  • Re:Google-itis (Score:5, Informative)

    by psychicninja (1150351) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:40PM (#32241624)
    Also, when I first saw it my brain was pretty sure it said "google-tits", which is probably an even more common problem...
  • Good with the Bad (Score:4, Informative)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:50PM (#32241856) Journal
    A buddy of mine had severe sinus congestion. His doctor told him to take Afrin. [wikipedia.org] Over the course of several years, his sinus congestion became worse. His doctor performed all sorts of exotic therapies, [wikipedia.org] and continued to recommend Afrin. Thanks to Google, and Wikipedia, he discovered that long term use of Afrin can cause a dependency, and actually make the symptoms worse. [wikipedia.org] A second opinion by another doctor confirmed his internet diagnosis, and he is doing much better.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:07PM (#32242240) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia lists sources that have referred to it as cyberchondria [wikipedia.org].
  • Re:Good with the Bad (Score:3, Informative)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:24PM (#32242574)

    Yea, he could have just read the warning on the bottle to figure that one out.

  • Re:Hypochondria? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sad Loser (625938) * on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:41PM (#32242920)

    IAAD, but an emergency physician so people generally don't have time to look stuff up. Or if they do, by definition, it's not an emergency. And the waiting room is in a Faraday cage, so their iphones don't work either, a very satisfactory arrangement.

    When I talk to my GP (family physician) colleagues about this, they say you have to work with it, and this phenomenon always occurred to a certain extent, it's just that in the old days the nutters had to go to the medical libraries, and so were easier to identify. Nowadays, quite rational people look up their symptoms and get things right, and this is good.

    There are real medical problems with the internet and increased accessibility of information, but far more than increasing anxiety, I would say worse problems are:
    • Astroturfing by pharmaceutical companies - pressure groups, patient groups with suspiciously slick websites
    • quack cures
    • aggressive libel laws stifling scientific debate [guardian.co.uk] which in the old days would have been shielded from lawyers.
    • looneys can find each other and associate more easily, and act aggressively to those who do not share their very strange view of the world - e.g. 'Myalgic Encephalitis sufferers' (an alleged condition that is neither myalgic or encephalitis and it is everyone else who does the suffering).

      Patients usually give you a clue that they are a looney though, which is very helpful. Favoured tell-tale signs are wearing tinted glasses, a soft neck collar or making notes in purple ink or with RANDOM capitalised words, or using one of those obesity scooter things. But if they seem relatively normal, I listen carefully and explain, because quite often they are right.

      BTW, I presume you were referring to this [wikipedia.org]? Although some other conditions can do this as well.
  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:52PM (#32243122)

    As much as I tend to encourage people to do a bit of science on the side, I have to make a couple of remarks on this, being a biochemist myself. First - your conclusion is wrong. You at best showed that penicillin stays active when stored in dry powdered form. Drawing conclusions to any arbitrary substance is a bit far-fetched. That is a very important thing that you have to learn when doing science properly - how to assess what conclusions you can actually draw from your data.

    Second - what where the concentrations you used? If you applied the penicillin at significant "overkill" concentration, you would basically see the statistical average amount of resistant cultures left in both cases. To be sure, you gotta do the experiment at different concentrations, and you gotta duplicate the plates for the experiment and the control, so you can compare the patterns of kill-off.

    Third, even if you showed that the potency stays roughly the same, you did not show if there are degradation products which could possibly be harmful for a patient - you would need to do a toxicity assay to be sure that it stays harmless for the patient.

    Forth, regarding the remaining colonies - did they survive because of innate resistance or because the antibiotic concentration was too low?

    Generally I think your conclusion is probably right, but the data you showed are not sufficient to make that conclusion. What you did is great for a college-level experiment, but in reality, there are more factors that you have to check for. That's why I sunk a couple of years of my life into studying that stuff. As I said, this is not to discourage you - doing science at home is great fun and you can learn a lot, but you gotta be careful evaluating your data. The most important part about science is, at least to me, that you gotta be aware that a single experiment might answer one question, but raises 10 others, on which you gotta follow up.

  • Re:Hypochondria? (Score:3, Informative)

    by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:25PM (#32246596)

    It would be nice with more refined diagnosis tools on the net tho; easily accessible and structured decision trees which can guide you through how to both rule in and rule out possibilities would make a good tool for both patients and doctors. Done correctly it could even cut down unnecessary doctors visits and/or increase chances of early discovery of some diseases.

    The NHS [wikipedia.org] has already produced a pretty good one [nhsdirect.nhs.uk]. They also have a really good selection of information on their NHS Direct site, and a local rate national helpline to talk about general health related issues. Slightly more geekily, they have a Behind the headlines [www.nhs.uk] news site which gives the real science behind some of the more heinously bad medical reporting that some sections of the media engage in.

    Plenty of controversy over nationalised healthcare systems: can't fault the NHS's online presence though, it's a real anomaly amongst Governmental efforts on the 'net.

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