The US Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI) recently released a report documenting that patients who search the internet on their own, looking for answers to health questions can make medical decisions that are potentially dangerous to their health. They note in their report that some patients have replaced their trusted physician with "google" or other search engines, but note that the medical information they find there always appears to be authoritative and accurate, but often isn't. They note examples of lawyers posing as medical experts, plaintiff firms searching for people willing to testify in lawsuits, and many groups or individuals selling alternative medical products of various sorts.
The authors further note that 65% of the first three pages of search results came from sites that were biased or contained unverified information. Nearly half of the first three pages of search results belonged to lawyers and attorney referral services seeking plaintiffs for class action law suits. Finally, they noted that no official regulatory pages or professional medical organizations appeared in the inventory of results.They note that persons who use the internet to obtain health information will find little that is reliable upon which they can depend and, worse, can get confusing, contradictory or dangerous advice or suggestions.
We have frequently noted on this site that we believe that the best model (other than working directly with your own personal physician) is to have a trusted physician who can either refer internet based information to you that relates to your particular issue, or send a site that you have found to a physician to review and verify its validity.At eDoc, the physicians almost always search the net and attach one or more relevant web sites to expand or illustrate our answers and comments. This provides patients with the best of both worlds: direct interaction with a trusted physician AND reliable, verified information from the vast resources of the internet.
Have you had frustrating experiences conducting your own searches? If so, I'd like to hear from you!