Internet Diagnosis: Where to Find Quality Medical Information

We know you’ve done it. Instead of coming to see our friendly faces at Doctors Express, instead, you sat down with your computer visited with Dr. Google. Maybe you found out your symptoms are common and it gave you peace of mind or maybe you were lead to a not-so-likely conclusion involving some kind of dramatic life-threatening illness.

As we mentioned last week, a Pew Research Center study recently found that 80% of Americans have gone online to check out their medical symptoms.  About 46% of people followed up with an in-person doctor visit, and only 41% found that their doctor agreed with the online diagnosis. Well, we’re thrilled that you’re paying attention to your health, and in our heart of hearts, we know that checking out medical info online is simply going to happen. While we recommend coming in for a visit when you have questions, we also want to make sure you’re finding quality information when you do that initial health research online!

Tip: remember that the Internet is just one tool in the diagnostic arsenal and it does have failings. With so many people turning online for advice, there is also plenty of incorrect information, hard sells, scams and too-good-to-be-true offers out there. If you’re researching symptoms online, use reputable sources so you get the best and most accurate information.

How to find good medical information online:

  • Look for sites that end in .gov, .org or .edu. These are typically associated with government agencies, nonprofit organizations and schools or universities.
  • Go directly to the source. Doctors often have information on the web in the form of published research and blogs, and often are quoted as part of news articles. If you don’t know where to start, try our national Doctors Express’ site.
  • Try reputable schools, hospitals or other organizations. The Mayo Clinic has a site with symptom lists, and other sites often have searchable databases of information.
  • Check out symptom trackers, BUT make sure they are good ones. Isabel, SymCat and the Mayo Clinic all have good reputations within the medical community.
  • Read the fine print. If you think a website’s information sounds off, check to see who’s funding the site or if it’s a part of larger organization. There are plenty of people trying to sell that “one secret tip,” so be sure the site is legitimate.

While the Internet is a great tool for research and may not offer bad information, a doctor you see in person is still the best way to get an accurate, professional diagnosis. Stick to reputable institutions and sites, follow up with your Doctors Express physician, and you’ll often find that the diagnosis is accurate and your doctor can provide helpful next steps in dealing with your symptoms!

Tell us your experiences with online symptom checkers. Which ones worked best for you?