Internet diagnosing can cause problems in doctors office - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Internet diagnosing can cause problems in doctors office

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Eau Claire (WQOW) -With concerns about H1N1 and other illnesses creeping up this winter season, there's one trend that doctors are beginning to see more and more of, and that's using the internet to diagnose their symptoms. Some healthcare providers say they've seen an increase in self-diagnosis from the internet. But that diagnosis can create a problem if not done correctly.

Concerns about health combined with technology age have brought up a trend when it comes to healthcare---- patients are using the internet to find an answer to their health problems.

Sarah Strahm, a Luther Middelfort nurse practitioner, says "What we're seeing is often people will come in and they'll have an idea of what might be going on with them. They're going out onto the internet and typing in their symptoms and coming up diagnoses. Some of the time they're definitely right, and sometimes there can be times where maybe they aren't right."

Medical staff says those can sometimes create problems, especially if patients don't discuss their internet diagnoses with their doctors.

"If I know that somebody thinks they have something based on their symptoms, I can then tell them why they may or may not have it, and they're going to be much happier and not going to have that kind of worry in the back of their mind," Strahm says.

So she says one of the most important things to do is to be open with your healthcare provider.

"I'm never going to be upset or angry at a patient for looking on the internet and trying to figure out what's wrong with them, it's human nature, people want to know what's wrong with them," she says. "I would strongly encourage anybody who is looking on the internet to try and diagnose themselves to discuss this with their healthcare provider."

The Mayo Clinic says if you do need to refer to the web, sites should clearly state who is responsible for the site and the information on that site. Anyone with a computer can create a website if they wish, so Strahm cautions checking the websites to make sure you're getting the right information.

"The Googling is what makes me the most nervous," she says. "When you Google your symptoms, often what you're going to get is companies that are trying to sell you something, and then you may not be getting as accurate of information."

Websites like WebMD and MayoClinic.com are just two she suggests can be helpful. Both of those have a symptom checker where you can input specifically what is wrong. But Strahm says nothing can replace the face to face interaction of actually going into the doctor.

"The websites are only as good as what you put in, so the more symptoms you can put in to a symptom checker like that, the better, and the closer of a match you may have. But a computer isn't a healthcare provider, and it's not going to be perfect," she says.

Medical staff says the internet is not a replacement for visiting your doctor. If you are concerned about any symptoms you have, be sure to contact your medical provider.

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