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May 10, 2017updated 09 May 2017 6:30pm

Is self-diagnosis empowering or endangering?

By GlobalData Healthcare

People are today surrounded by an overwhelming amount of information and knowledge on almost any topic of interest, including a variety of online symptom-checkers that encourage self-diagnosis.

Although public health is working to enable people to make health-conscious decisions through health education, potentially saving health care costs in the long-run, will self-diagnosis inadvertently increase costs and endanger the individual?

Health care systems face many issues, including long ER wait times and rising health care costs.

Discouraging people from seeking unnecessary care and educating the population on making health-conscious decisions in their everyday life can help lessen the magnitude of the problem.

Many individuals are becoming more conscious of their time, turning to online symptom-checkers to decide whether or not they should seek further medical help.

During flu season, individuals can often be treated at home with plenty of rest, fluids and over-the-counter medication.

As more people use online symptom-checkers and understand that they have contracted the flu, unnecessary ER visits can be avoided unless symptoms progress and require further medical attention.

Online symptom-checkers can also encourage individuals to seek medical attention as early as possible when presented with symptoms that may indicate a disease such as skin cancer, thus increasing survival rates.

On the other hand, when individuals are presented with a variety of symptoms that result in a number of diagnoses from the online symptom-checker, they may choose to wait until symptoms progress further before seeking medical attention or diagnose themselves with the wrong disease.

Waiting until symptoms progress may result in further complications or an adverse event that requires more treatment than if it had been diagnosed earlier.

A false diagnosis by the individual can often lead to the same result if they do not seek medical help earlier.

Alternatively, if individuals diagnose themselves before seeing their primary care provider, this may lead to a harder time accepting a professional diagnosis and could hinder treatment compliance.

Individuals may continue to seek multiple opinions in order to find one that agrees with their self-diagnosis, potentially delaying early treatment.

With a vast amount of knowledge available, online symptom-checkers are another source of health-related information that can potentially avoid unnecessary ER visits.

However, as any other source of information on the internet, individuals should be cautious in fully trusting what they read.

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