We live in an age of abundance. Pretty much any question that comes to mind can be asked of the Internet. With so much information at our fingertips 24/7, it can be easy to expect any answer instantaneously – even when it comes to our health.
When we start experiencing new symptoms or are diagnosed with a new health condition, it’s tempting to seek out information wherever we can find it. In fact, more than half of Canadians have admitted to self-diagnosing with “Dr. Google”.
Tip of the Iceberg
Take, for example, the case of Wakeem. As a healthy individual who undergoes thorough medical assessments every year, he was taken aback when a routine medical checkup resulted in a diagnosis of an enlarged spleen.
Feeling concerned, Wakeem made an appointment with his family doctor to discuss things further, but while waiting for the date to arrive, he became increasingly anxious. So he began searching for information online… only to find his worries getting even worse.
“I was hoping to set my mind at ease,” Wakeem tells us, “but it seemed every new page I looked at just gave me a new thing to worry about.”
After reading through a mountain of distressing and contradictory information, Wakeem found himself more concerned about his health than ever, and desperately needing some clarity.
The Trouble with General Searches
So what’s the harm in gathering a little information online? As a starting point before consulting with a professional, seeking out information from online sources is not necessarily a bad idea. But it’s important to be able to gauge how reputable your source is; alongside useful sources, the Internet is loaded with incorrect or outdated information, worst-case scenarios, and sponsored websites intending to push specific products or treatments.
Unfortunately, this is a widespread problem: studies have shown that Google search results for health-related queries have serious inconsistencies and troublingly high rates of inaccuracy. When running test cases, researchers discovered that a majority of patients found inaccurate or irrelevant information when attempting to Google their symptoms.
But there is no need to resign yourself to being uninformed. There are plenty of reputable sources out there – you just have to know where to look.
Finding Light in the Darkness
With the amount of information he found online, Wakeem was even more concerned about what the new condition might mean for him.
“I knew I couldn’t wait until my doctor’s appointment to have my worries resolved,” Wakeem says. So he called Novus Health, an additional health information service offered by his health insurance provider.
The Novus Health specialist advised Wakeem that the information he’d found was not necessarily reputable, and assured him that his family doctor would be the best source of information about his condition.
“The specialist I spoke to was compassionate and empathetic at a time when I had put myself into a panic.”
Wakeem was provided with an information package to give him the full picture of his situation. The package contained both general information about enlarged spleens (symptoms, diagnosis, possible causes and next steps) and tips on preparing for the appointment with his family doctor.
Well informed is Well Armed
“It was a relief to be able to speak to someone who knew how to help right when I needed it,” Wakeem says, “and the information package was exactly what I needed to make sense of what was happening to me.” With the comprehensive overview from Novus Health on his side, Wakeem was much better prepared to meet with his doctor and discuss the next steps of his condition.
“I now know exactly where to look when I have questions about my health,” Wakeem adds. “Only next time, I can skip the ‘panic’ part!”
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