A Better Way to Talk About Online Health Information

I found an article last week that discusses medical information on the Internet without, for once, resorting to the tired old, “Health websites are BAD” theme. That particular subject isn’t just limiting; it simplifies the quality and integrity of many medical websites to the point of ridiculousness. This CNN article instead took the five top health searches of herpes, pregnancy, depression, heart disease, and breast cancer, and listed favorite information sources for each.

The concept of this article makes for a much more refreshing read than the other kind. I always wonder what public figures are thinking when they complain about Internet research or equate all bloggers to the cyber version of Wayne’s World.

It’s 2010. The Internet ain’t going anywhere, and neither are the people and institutions who write and publish on it. Nor, for that matter, are the questions that drive people to conduct these medical searches. About time someone said, “Okay, people are going to keep reading health information online, so let’s point them in the right direction.”

17 responses to “A Better Way to Talk About Online Health Information”

  1. Sarah says:

    Agreed! Sadly, people in general tend to be rather conservative in the apolitical sense of the word. People are not fond of change (unless it’s change that they were pushing for).

    So when a new technology comes onto the scene, people are reluctant to take advantage of it to its full potential until well after it’s no longer “new”.

    Take for example, the dishwasher at my place. I use it a lot. My roommate’s girlfriend refuses to use the dishwasher because, “That’s not the way we did it back home.” Instead, she’ll spend an hour or so a day doing her dishes by hand. Even though she admits she hates doing dishes, she doesn’t trust a machine to clean the dishes well enough (even though the dishwasher will sterilize the dishes and on average will use less water, less power and less soap to achieve the same effect). I think a lot of people are like her with regard to tech in general, and they’re made uncomfortable when people come up with a different way of doing something that’s been done the same way for as long as they can remember. The knee-jerk reaction is, “You can’t do it that way because it’s never been done that way before!”

    It’s completely circular reasoning and a totally irrational argument, but then, most people (myself included) aren’t completely rational beings. :)

  2. Sara C. says:

    I think the problem is that too many people still don’t use the internet properly. For example…I have a friend who is going through a tough time with her daughter, and saw a checklist for the symptoms of oppositional defiance disorder…and now she’s almost sure that’s what her daughter has…but the checklists don’t ever address SEVERITY of “symptoms” “Always, Often, Sometimes, Never” aren’t really CLINICAL diagnostic tools.

    Parents who are responsible internet health investigators (and lets face it, some of us have no choice but to become that) know that just because something looks like it might be what you’re looking at, you still need a doctor to check it out. Otherwise, I’d have diagnosed Mariella with everything from ideopathic pancreatitis to Cystic Fibrosis…because her symptoms fit those things. However, because I’m responsible (most of the time) I took notes, THEN went to the doctor and said “I’ve found THIS, what do you think”

    Between the internet, and medication commercials on television, I can understand why medical professionals are wary, though. Now, patients go into the doctor and say “The internet told me I have X, Y, and Z….and I need Medication A that I saw on TV to treat it” THEN they have hissy fits because the doctor says “you don’t have X, Y, OR Z and medication A isn’t appropriate for you at all.”

    If only we could bottle responsibility and common sense.

  3. Amy says:

    Too many people view Internet medical research as an either/or proposition, when hello? Even the big medical sites carry disclaimers that say something like, “Talk to your doctor before starting/changing any treatment.” Yes, using the Internet to self-diagnose or as your ONLY source of health care is irresponsible, but not turning to it for information/support or to fill the gaps when you can’t reach your doctor is neglecting a powerful resource.

    I like this article because it advocates for responsible Internet research in conjunction with actual, in-person medical care.

  4. Sara C. says:

    exactly! I’m a big fan of responsible internet usage. (but, self diagnosis is FUN!!!!)

    I love your links.

Leave a Reply