DO YOU TRUST DR GOOGLE?

The best in­for­ma­tion is not al­ways found in Google searches

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr Tammra Warby

When it comes to health, Dr Google gets a good work out! It’s so sim­ple to just type, ‘Is it nor­mal…?’, fol­lowed by what­ever symp­tom it is that you might have. Even though the in­ter­net is a fab­u­lous re­source to in­crease health knowl­edge, the sources of in­for­ma­tion vary in qual­ity and un­for­tu­nately there is no con­text to the ques­tion. So, can you trust Dr Google? When defin­ing the ques­tion, ‘Is it nor­mal?’, it refers to the usual/typ­i­cal or ex­pected state or con­di­tion. But the spec­trum of what is ex­pected to be nor­mal or typ­i­cal among peo­ple is very wide, es­pe­cially through the broad age range of life. Also, peo­ple tend to sub­sti­tute this ques­tion for what they ac­tu­ally mean, e.g. ‘Should I worry about …’, or ‘Is there any­thing bad go­ing on?’. When it comes to as­sess­ing your health, doc­tors use com­plex clin­i­cal rea­son­ing skills and their ex­pe­ri­ence to reach con­clu­sions about the nor­mal state of the body and any pos­si­ble mul­ti­ple dis­eases that may re­late to a pa­tient. There­fore, it is not as sim­ple as typ­ing in the symp­toms and re­quest­ing a yes/no an­swer. The rea­sons for var­i­ous an­swers must be care­fully con­sid­ered be­cause peo­ple of­ten mean dif­fer­ent things by their ques­tion and a doc­tor must make a con­clu­sion, us­ing the con­text of the pa­tient’s age, back­ground health, risks such as smok­ing, their med­i­ca­tions and a host of other fac­tors. So, some­thing that is NOT nor­mal for the rest of the pop­u­la­tion can still be noth­ing for an in­di­vid­ual to worry about. Also, some­thing that is nor­mal or not wor­ry­ing in younger pop­u­la­tions can be ab­nor­mal or wor­ry­ing in older pop­u­la­tions.

CAN TRUST­ING DR GOOGLE, GIVE FALSE RE­AS­SUR­ANCE?

Rather than seek­ing false re­as­sur­ance from the in­ter­net, it’s eas­ier to be aware that un­usual changes in your body or your

A doc­tor makes a con­clu­sion us­ing com­plex clin­i­cal rea­son­ing skills & ex­pe­ri­ence.

health should be dis­cussed with a doc­tor. To do this you should know your body well and what is usual and typ­i­cal for you.

YOU SHOULD BE AWARE OF:

• your usual bowel habits

• your weight

• any new aches and pains

• lumps/bumps

• how your skin nor­mally looks

• how fit you feel

• your usual en­ergy level and your mood. If there is a change in any of these fea­tures, make a note of the pat­tern and what other symp­toms you might have. Women com­monly searched terms on Google re­lated to:

• preg­nancy

• men­stru­a­tion

• ba­bies. With so many an­swers avail­able, it helps to know what qual­ity in­for­ma­tion is avail­able. For example, qual­ity in­for­ma­tion about de­vel­op­men­tal mile­stones, di­etary habits, ba­bies’ sleep habits and breast­feed­ing, can be found on the Rais­ing Chil­dren

web­site. Also, there is good qual­ity in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing preg­nancy on The Women’s web­site.

AB­NOR­MAL SYMP­TOMS

Fi­nally, there are symp­toms that must be con­sid­ered ab­nor­mal un­til proven oth­er­wise after dis­cus­sion with a doc­tor. These symp­toms in­clude:

• new lumps

• heavy, painful pe­ri­ods

• bleed­ing from the bowel

• un­in­tended weight loss

• per­sist­ing sad­ness or not en­joy­ing your usual ac­tiv­i­ties any per­sist­ing new breast symp­toms like pain or lumps. So, if you have any of the symp­toms listed, visit your doc­tor to dis­cuss and gain valu­able in­for­ma­tion and prompt treat­ment if re­quired. Many sim­ple tests can as­sist the doc­tor’s di­ag­no­sis. This is a ser­vice that can­not be of­fered when you trust Dr Google.

Dr Tammra Warby is a Gen­eral Prac­ti­tioner with a PhD, who works at Foxwell Med­i­cal. She is on the FRACGP Fu­ture Lead­ers pro­gram 2018 and man­ages chronic dis­ease such as asthma and di­a­betes, with fur­ther qual­i­fi­ca­tion in skin can­cer surgery. She can be fol­lowed on Twit­ter.

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