Should I Google My Symptoms Before My Appointment?
100% – it would be foolish not to
Medically reviewed and written by Ashwin Malhotra, M.D. — May 1st, 2021
This definitely a challenging topic to discuss. I know most of my colleagues strongly dislike it when patients google their symptoms and present with speculative rare and unlikely diagnosis because that was the first hit on Google.
My response to this phenomena is simple: “wow, Issac Syndrome, a < 1 in a 1,000,000 disease has great SEO!.”
SEO, by the way for all the non-tech savvy people out there, means “search engine optimization.” So, when someone goes out into Google Search and input some search terms, aka keywords, Dr.Google uses the best algorithms to display the most relevant content with the searched for Key Words.
Naturally, Dr.Google doesn’t open up a line of communication with you during your search to really make a diagnosis or get you to the right path. There are some advanced AIs now that can follow up with a few questions to get you in the ballpark of the most relevant items, but digital intelligence still has no ability to integrate a physical exam to put everything together for a clear diagnosis. More concerning is that the digital intelligence can be manipulated by improving SEO or digital identify of a certain disease or topic for secondary gain. Creating an inherent bias in the process.
There is where a Physician will always supersede AI.
So, Google Stuff but Ignore It Afterwards?
Not quite. I recommend all my patients to review and research their questions as best as they can before presenting for a clinical visit. I have found patients who have read up about their symptoms are often very motivated to learn more and this helps facilitate the medical conversation. Specifically, most of the technical terminology is already understood, which allows for a true discussion rather than a one-sided conversation. Additionally, I also find patients who are well read about their disease, or at least the possible differential diagnosis of their condition, are more compliant with treatment.
Pre-Visit Google for Quality In-Visit Discussion?
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