The Internet is creating new-age hypochondriacs, an all-India doctors’ survey reveals
A recent survey, conducted across 27 cities including Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad revealed that doctors have been struggling to deal with patients who use the internet to find out what ails them.
Making matters worse are hundreds of thousands of online forums where people discuss their ailments and symptoms, which often result in patients indulging in self-medication, and also end up arguing with doctors upon being told that their ailmentisnotevenclosetotheworsediseasestheyhad imagined, said majority of the 650 doctors who participated in the survey.
The doctors, including specialists and super specialists, termed people's increasing dependence on the internet to find medical cures and search for symptoms as a "major strain on the doctor-patient relationship".
Overloaded with information
Forty-four per cent of the 650 doctors surveyed said that most of their patients were "overloaded with information", while 37 per cent doctors were of the opinion that their patients considered themselves "medical experts" after reading about the ailments on the internet.
As many as 38 per cent of the doctors surveyed said that majority of their patients who participated in online forums to discuss their ailments were "grossly misinformed" about the symptoms.
Dr Pratit Samdani, a general physician at the Breach Candy Hospital said he often comes across patients who imagine the worst after an online search of the ailments.
"One of my patients, a woman in her 30s, was convinced she was suffering from lung cancer. She had been coughing incessantly, and obviously the internet search said it was the most basic symptom of lung cancer. She assumed the worst, but it turned out to be a very minor infection," he said.
Dr Bharat Shivdasani, a cardiologist at Jaslok Hospital, said that it becomes difficult to convince patients who are loaded with "internet information". He said,"A few weeks ago,a man in his 40s visited me for consultation. He was convinced that he suffered from a heart ailment only because he was experiencing pain in left arm. When I told him that was not the case, he ended up arguing with me."
Samdani termed the internet a "medical menace", saying the woman who had assumed she was suffering from cancer insisted on undergoing a series of tests. "I spent an hour trying to convince her that she didn't need to undergo the tests. Internet cannot diagnose ailments or treat anyone," he said.
The survey, conducted by Ipsos Healthcare and Ruder Finn, an international public relations firm, aims to educate people on the dangers of 'over-information' when it comes to ailments. One such victim of medical overload, Dahisar resident Vikas Vyas, said he recently spent sleepless nights assuming the worst of diseases after searching the causes of throat pain on the internet.
The curse of internet
Out of the 650 doctors surveyed, 44% said their patients were "overloaded with medical info gathered online". Thirty-seven per cent doctors said that many of their patients think of themselves as medical experts.
Fifty per cent of the doctors surveyed said internet has made their interaction with patients "difficult".