Doctor Google : perils of the online prescription.


Surprisingly, I once caught my friend ranting on a much weird issue. How are doctors going to put on the to the challenge that the internet has brought on them? The seemingly harmless act of googling up the symptoms. And to her credit, she is an undergraduate in medical sciences and surgery. Before I proceed, I must clarify my self on two grounds. Why is this somewhat surprising, and what the rant was?

It is immensely powerful indeed that google presents before us a vast database of information so that even without completely phrasing our symptom, we can reach the drug that is to be ingested. Powerful, because that would make medical prescriptions virtually free to millions on the internet. And not only that save, the time and in some cases, the anxiety of visiting a doctor physically. As you delve more into it, it does imply that the best of the medicines in the market and their prices can be made available to the ailing patient on his fingertips. Awarding him both the solution and the choice to chose his treatment. Who knew this could happen, getting un-sick is digitalised. BUT why are these budding doctors against it?

Here comes the side, we as non-doctors won’t see. The fact that Google is merely a database of information, and all it has is just a keyword to perform its analysis, should ring a bell. It does undo the systematic study of human physiology, anatomy, and to that matter, even biochemistry. All it does is crawl over the internet to find related queries and pages. Although its general intelligence to assume that a keyword match is not a coincidence, it could be a fatal error to get it to full confidence. In fact, Google may have just handed a 10-year-old kid the prescription for 60-year-old diabetic women, yet we would have no idea of it. Not that it could not be cross-checked, but for that, we need doctors on the internet.

Another fundamental problem with our digital doctor is that misinformation is as abundant as information. In these cases, I personally hold social media a larger party to the crime, but the average netizen does not distinguish. In fact, if there were several pages around the world claiming a false fact, google might show that up. And the issue is its pretty easy to do so. Thanks to cheap internet hosting services. So in these days of information excess, the need for authority is indispensable. I have not got into cases of false-positive and true negative yet.

In medical sciences, of course, the margin of error gets a little too less. As my friend argues a wrong medicine is no less than poison, in the best case, it has delayed your treatment, and in the worst case, you have probably impaired your immunity for life. She also went on to describe how patients can, at times, get obstinate about their google results, and even disregard the doctor. I stand guilty of this charge. Luckily for me and many others, it works out. She calls it the PLACEBO effect, the mental feeling that your medicine shall work can sometimes power up your body.

I hold the belief as a technical graduate, its a sin to just point out an error, making no effort to rectify it. In this case, I suggested, more and more doctors come online. That would help negate the faulty bias. She laughed off at the suggestion, it would be good for us too. But, a patient is not a perfect judge of the symptoms. Not because he does not feel them, but somewhat lacks the skill to correctly bracket it to the disease. I was shocked to learn there are eight stages of pain, and you could be losing your head over an assumption. In fact, multiple symptoms, often signal of a greater malady. Even course structures deter aspiring doctors from online prescriptions, to avoid the box of uncanny possibilities they carry.

Finally, have you not dropped off drugs after googling up their use. Perhaps confident that you don’t require any such medication, and have saved yourself from an unnecessary pocket pinch. Turns out it is not so, there are type-D drugs, which your doctor cant risk skipping (they took years to un-maze the labyrinth of drug effects on the human body). Well, guess what, Dr Google can. So next time you feel you feel sick, it is better you get an appointment. Unless you want to google up things for fun, spoiler alert, they always end in cancer.

Share with:


Please Login to comment