With flu season in full swing, Plattsburgh State students might not know whether to pay a visit to the doctor. However, technology makes everything easier. There are many websites on the Internet such as WebMD, Healthline and Mayo Clinic and smartphone apps you can use to self-diagnose and save your time as well as your money.
However, according to a study by Harvard Medical School, people should not rely on those symptom checker websites for correct diagnoses because most of them are inaccurate.
“Today, because of the internet, people can access to anything even for checking their health condition,” PSUC nursing senior My Chung said. “However, due to my perspective as a nursing student, I don’t support checking symptoms online.”
She said it is easy for someone to post something online without any proof checks on their medical information. Therefore, Chung believes viewers can easily obtain unreliable information and falsely diagnose themselves.
“It’s totally understandable when people said checking their symptoms online can help them save money and time,” she said.
Chung said the symptom checkers are only good when people have some general diseases such as seasonal allergic or common cold. However, she said that is not the case all the time. Chung still recommended people should see a doctor when needed because she said those symptoms can be one of many other symptoms that a particular disease is developing in that person.
“When someone comes to the doctor’s office with a primary reason, we always obtain more information, like their medication and disease history, environmental stressors,” she said. “Also, medical clinics or doctor’s offices are more medically accessible comparing to the Internet.”
In addition, PSUC medical technology sophomore Tran Nguyen said many illnesses and diseases have the same symptoms.
“Only a trained physician can clearly distinguish them, whereas the online checker provides misleading information to the patients,” she said.
As a medical technology student, she said part of her job is to examine body fluids to find signs of abnormalities. Therefore, she recommended everyone to go see a doctor and have a thorough examination to receive sufficient treatment as soon as possible.
“Sometimes, people prefer to use online resources if they don’t have time or if they don’t really feel that those symptoms are serious enough to see a doctor,” PSUC Assistant Director for Health Services and Physician Assistant Susan Sand said.
Working in the healthcare field, Sand is familiar with the symptom checkers. She said their quality varies from website to website, and the symptom checker of the WebMD is actually good.
“But in general, I think using the Internet to diagnose yourself is a very bad idea,” Sand said. “We find students very often will Google things before they come to the Student Health Center for help.”
As a result, she said they will be so anxious by the time they get to the health center because of what they have seen online, which are serious and do not apply to them.
“Self-diagnosing can be very anxiety-provoking,” Sand said.
Sand said when we visit the doctor, we are able to ask more questions.
“Sometimes, symptoms are related to things that are going on in your life,” she said. “They are not related to disease, but they are related to stressors in your life.”
Furthermore, Sand pointed out that when visiting the doctor, people can do an exam which they cannot do via the Internet. Sand also gave two reasons why people should see the doctor. The first reason is for preventive health care. People should make sure that their immunizations are up to date or get a flu shot in fall, according to Sand. The second reason is when people have health problems that need to be taken care of immediately.
“Going to the doctor for prevention is very important, and I think sometimes we forget that,” she said.
Sand also recommended everybody to visit the doctor at least once a year for young adults and older adults, and more when needed.
“The Internet will never be a substitute for going to see the doctor,” she said.
Email Hilly Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org