In a recent interview in TheMarker , “Why People Should be Prohibited From Searching for Information about Diseases on Google” [Hebrew], Dr. Benny Moses, a senior Israeli physician, argues that patients over-rely on information found over the internet for making medical decisions.
When asked if the information revolution has created more bad than good, Dr. Moses replied, “Indeed. Searching Google is one of the biggest enhancers of anxiety that ever existed. In matters of health, whatever you find over Google must be carefully screened by a professional. In the ideal world, the patient should not have access to information without a trained mediator”. Another article on Mashable cited a 2011 Pew Study, which found that 80% of internet users look for health information online, making medical inquiries the third most popular web-based pursuit, following only email and search engine use. However, when professionals evaluated the accuracy of the information found over the internet, they concluded that 61% of the information found was either incorrect or failed to provide answers to the questions asked. One can argue that the problem is a lack of scrutiny of the medical information which appears on the internet, but that is like blaming the weather for getting wet. The problem is more serious than inaccuracies. Patients lack the very basic skills needed to assess the information they find, its validity and relevance, the sources, and the trained ability to weigh the meaning of it all for a specific context. The results are troubling – instead of empowerment and reassurance, patients get anxious and misled.
MedInt’s premise from the very start has been that searching the internet is a profession. Researching a medical case should be done by those who have the necessary skills. Yes, your physician may conduct your personalized research (at least in theory), but they frequently lack the time or incentives to do so. That is why we rely on professional researchers with strong backgrounds in biology, medicine, and physiology, who possess the technical language, skills, and experience to properly assess and analyze the information that is found. They, in turn, synthesize the data into concrete insights that empower patients when they need to take decisions alongside their physician regarding their medical condition. We are not against the information revolution, we just use it in a way that benefits those patients who need it most.
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