Your Expertise, Experience & Knowledge VS. Doctor Google
Healthcare providers know that when their patients’ experience illness symptoms, the first instinct isn’t always to call the doctor’s office – on the contrary, their first port of call is a search engine.
And it may actually be bigger problem than you think! According to research by the Europe health authority 80 % of patients go online to search for medical information.
Seeking health advice online isn’t always a bad thing, but there are important things that need to be carefully considered before patience consult with “Dr. Google”:
Online sources vary widely in credibility.
Experts and healthcare providers help put online information into context.
There’s a difference between health information accessible to healthcare providers and the online information available to the general public.
Research has suggested that packed GP surgeries and rising wait times is furthering this trend of Google self-diagnosis.
Data compiled by private UK healthcare provider, Benenden Health, revealed that more than 100 million health-related Google searches were placed in the UK in a 12 month period – and that was pre-pandemic.
With self-diagnosis undermining due medical process, raising concerns – there is a requirement of physicians to adapt to help patients differentiate the helpful websites from the misleading ones.
And when inaccurate information is treated as fact, it may cause harm to anyone who acts on its recommendations.
This is such a common issue that there’s a running joke between healthcare professionals that if you Google a symptom (any symptom), you’ll inevitably be told you have cancer.
And this rabbit hole into fast, frequent, and (usually) false diagnoses can lead to more Googling. And a lot of anxiety. In fact, psychologists have coined a term for it: cyberchondria, or when your anxiety increases due to health-related searches.
So What’s The Crux?
Benenden Health analysed more than 8,000 unique health related phrases and questions around the most common ailments and diseases, obtained using Google Keyword Planner.
The data indicated that mental health was the biggest concern amongst the UK public: anxiety, schizophrenia, chronic depression and bipolar disorder all featured in the top 10 most Googled health concerns, making up one quarter of all searches.
Sexual health-related searches were the second most common. The data also revealed that self-diagnosis was highest in London, representing nearly a quarter (23%) of all search enquiries.
The fact of the matter is simple! The very people who are in dire need of professional expertise, don’t have the medical training to understand the other factors that go into making a medical diagnosis, like personal and family history. And neither does Dr. Google. It lacks the discernment only gained through experience in specialised fields.
It is important that patients receive the right medical message at the right time, which will in-turn help reduce mortality rates caused by misinformation – and that’s where easy access to be the expertise of medical professionals through their online presence becomes a must.
And as Google itself makes algorithmic changes to help tackle this problem (Ex. the algorithm change dubbed as the “Medic update”, a push for the search engine giant to help improve the identification of authority and expertise online) – it is of the utmost importance that professionals and service providers leverage these changes, along with the many others, to position themselves as experts in their field.
Blu Zetta is on a mission to equip doctors, practices and medical professionals with the necessary digital solutions needed to excel in this climate.
If you would like to get a free 1-1 consultation, digital roadmap and brand strength survey and ensure your business not only survives but thrives in this climate, all you need to do is get in touch!
– A BluZetterian
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