In recent times people entrust Internet not only with the settlement of everyday issues, but also with their own health. Why should one go to a hospital and wait in a long line for an appointment, when he can ask such an outstanding "home doctor" - Google. Type your symptoms and get the diagnosis - gastritis. Wait a second! Doctor "Yandex" says it is an ulcer...

Which one is right? And should we entrust our health with online doctors, consultants and various forums? ForUm has decided to find out... 

A doctor myself

Self-treatment with the help of Internet is not the latest news. The tendency has existed in many countries for years already, and Ukraine willingly follows the example. According to the public survey, held by UMP company, every third Ukrainian seeks medical advice in Internet.

And every person has his own reasons to ask "all-knowing doctor Web". Some people do not want to spend much on treatment, others are too busy and simply do not have time to spend in hospital's lines, thirds have had a negative experience and no longer trust doctors. There are also individuals, like the famous hypochondriac patient Argan in Moliere's comedy, obsessed with their health, who go on Internet every time they have a slightest upset and "prescribe" themselves dozens of pills, and as a result fall sick for real. People hardly think about danger of such self-treatment, as it is hard to tell what information is true and what is false.

For example, on one of such forums a guy complains about backache on the right side, and the whole army of "qualified doctors" hurry to help him. They make various diagnoses, like "may be appendicitis", "right kidney", "muscles", "bowels" or even "stress due to economic problems", and prescribe and recommend treatment, like "one Nise tablet and Nimesulide gel locally" or "lie down on the back on the floor and put your legs on a sofa or chair to have 90 degrees angle in the knees". Funny, don't you think? To be fair, sometimes it happens to meet true specialists or responsible users, who recommend to visit a doctor before making a diagnosis. But in the majority of cases...

On-line treatment: pros and cons

ForUm has asked specialists with higher medical education what they think about "diagnosis from userpic".

"Treatment with the help of Internet is a complicated but interesting question. There are respected  doctors, who may give their recommendations in Internet, and their opinions can be followed. But as a rule, the majority of users on forums have nothing to do with medicine. They do not understand and do not want to understand that recommendations of non-doctors may hurt someone or even kill," family doctor Oleksiy Babich says.

According to him, any doctor consulting on Internet has no right to prescribe any concrete treatment without seeing a patient in person and conducting thorough examination. "A qualified doctor aware of his actions can give only general recommendations or recommend to visit a specific specialist, but not knowing the diagnosis for sure he will never prescribe a treatment with precise dosage," Babich adds.

In turn, physician Olena Boiko is dead set against self-treatment through Internet. "Internet is full of information that may hurt you. Yes, it may speak about your disease and methods of treatment, but who told you you've made the correct diagnosis? Only a specialist can do it, and not virtually, but in person. The web speaks about general ways of treatment, while every patient requires individual approach. A treatment that helps one patient may hurt another one," she says.

At the same time the doctor does not mind patients studying their disease on Internet. "When a specialist has made the diagnosis you can go home and search for information as much as you want. In fact, doctors do have time to explain every detail to every patient. As a rule, doctors simply say "you have bronchitis", and then the patient can enter the web and learn about this disease and its consequences. There is nothing wrong with such approach, but it is important not to self-medicate," the physician says. 

The doctor complains that there are people trusting blindly the web. "For many patients Internet is the highest authority, and everything it speaks about is the Truth. If a doctor's diagnosis differs from the one found through Internet, such people will rather believe Internet. Unfortunately, doctors can do nothing in this situation, but to wish a speedy recovery to such headshakers," Olena adds.

In turn, Babich points out that if a patient does not trust his doctor, but prefers following Internet recommendations, the doctor does not bear any responsibility for his health. "We live in a democratic society, and every patient has the right to chose, but responsibility for the consequences lies with him as well. Doctor's obligations include to make the diagnosis, prescribe proper treatment and record the procedure in medical files. If the patient does not want to follow the prescribed treatment and believes he has a different disease, well, it is his choice," he notes.

If you, reader, cannot live without the World Web and entrust it with all important issues, including your health, at least do not take all the information for the absolute truth, but use Internet as a guide or encyclopedia only, and remember that self-treatment through Internet can cause unacceptable health risk.

Daryna Schwartzman


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