Why is self-diagnosis bad

Googling symptoms: when it makes sense and when you should rather leave it

Is that possible - a diagnosis via the Internet? And which sites are trustworthy? In an interview, Corinna Schaefer from the Medical Center for Quality in Medicine explains what to look out for when you google your illness

Pain, discomfort, skin changes - does it make sense to look for it on the Internet first?

Corinna Schaefer: Our recommendation is to see a doctor first in any case with symptoms. If he has told me what I have, then it is important to find out more in a targeted manner.

Why not Dr. Trust the internet?

That is also a question of type. If you tend to find all sorts of symptoms in yourself, it doesn't do you good to let unfiltered search results hit you.

You mean, if you google "headache", you are guaranteed to end up with a brain tumor?

That may be. Because patients are unaware of many medical issues and do not know exactly what to determine for a correct diagnosis, as a doctor would. A single symptom can indicate a wide variety of diseases. The doctor knows which illness he needs to ask what. As a layman, I am left alone with the statements of the Internet for the time being. Some then come to the practice with certain ideas about their supposed illness and the right therapy that the doctor can hardly talk them out of. In any case, the most important thing is not to let yourself go crazy. It's just easier said than done.

Reader's question: When do you ask Dr. Internet?

When does internet research make sense without a clear diagnosis?

Even if the doctor cannot classify the symptoms and if one has suffered from them for a long time. Because then everything points to a rare disease.

Where can I get reliable information about my illness - after a medically correct diagnosis?

Of course there are a few trustworthy sites with high-quality information that meet the requirements of the German Network for Evidence-Based Medicine. These include patienten-information.de of the German Medical Association and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, as well as the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) with its website Gesundheits-information.de, which serves a broad catalog of clinical pictures.

When it comes to cancer, the cancer information service of the German Cancer Research Center is the first point of contact on the Internet. And if you want to find out more about individual health services, there is the IGeL monitor from the medical service of the health insurance companies. If you basically want to know what studies say, then there is Cochrane Germany. However, all of these are providers who are not commercial - and therefore not at the top of the Google search results.

That sounds like a confusing range of information ...

Yes, you will not find every clinical picture on every one of these pages. But in the future there should be a national health portal. Hopefully this will be initiated in the course of 2018. This would then provide an address for trustworthy information that patients could go to.

As long as that doesn't exist: How can I tell whether other sites are also trustworthy?

Until the national health portal comes along, we can encourage users to find answers to questions such as:

  • Who operates the offer and how is it financed? Are advertising and technical content separate? Is it being dramatized or played down?
  • Never look at just one page, always look at several. Maybe there are contradictions?
  • Look up who the writer is and how qualified he or she is.
  • How current is the information?

Can't the internet be smarter than the doctor?

Yes, for example on the already mentioned topic of rare diseases. Some chronically ill people have also been actively dealing with their illness for a long time because of their great suffering - they can find excellent information on the Internet if they know where to look. Nevertheless, caution is advised because it is not enough to read the latest study. You also have to be able to judge them. Because most of the studies come from the pharmaceutical industry, which of course wants to make its products look good.

Corinna Schaefer heads the Evidence-Based Medicine and Guidelines department and the Patient Information / Knowledge Management department of the Medical Center for Quality in Medicine (ÄZQ).

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