Wednesday May 22, 2019

Stop treating Google as your doctor

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New Delhi: Are you among those who log into Google every time you are down with body ache, fever or cold, only to get more confused and scared? Many young Indians with smartphones in their hands are falling prey to the “Google-as-your-doctor” phenomenon and the dangerous trend is on the rise in the country, health experts feel.

Although there is nothing wrong in checking your symptoms or trying to find more about your illness on the internet, they say that one should know where to stop.

The ideal situation is to use search engines only when someone is diagnosed with a certain medical condition and wants to know more about it. The information available on the internet should be used to educate oneself rather than trying to find a cure for the disease.

“The biggest problem is that the internet is loaded with enormous information which could be correct too but then your symptoms could be similar to some other disease which may cause confusion. Therefore, correct diagnosis of your health abnormality is very important,” Dr Satnam Singh Chhabra, head (neuro-spine surgeon) at the Sir Gangaram Hospital here, said.

He has observed many young Indian adults getting hooked to the internet to look for every little thing, even self-diagnosis.

For instance, if one has a health abnormality, then the instant reaction is to Google the symptoms before seeing an expert or a doctor.

“But one should be careful as people normally look for symptoms to get rid of curiosity and anxiety but to the contrary, it just worsens the scenario and leaves them more anxious,” Chhabra said.

According to Dr (Prof) Raju Vaishya, senior consultant (orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon) at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, one should beware of getting trapped into “Google-as-your-doctor” behaviour as this may cause more harm than good.

“Yes, there is an increasing surge in young Indians with smartphones who google common health symptoms. I find more such patients coming to me with queries related to hand, wrist and elbow,” Vaishya said.

Dr R K Singal of the BLK Super-specialty Hospital had an interesting case study to share: “Once a patient in his mid-30s came to me with a severe headache. He told me that he thought he had a brain tumour. After diagnosis, we found that the headache was due to a prolonged sore throat and rhinopharyngitis (common cold).”

“The patient visited me after a month of self-diagnosis through the internet. Whatever he found on the internet made him believe that he had a brain tumour,” Singal said.

According to Singal, people in the 25-40 age group are more hooked on to the internet and such self-diagnosis only increases one’s anxiety.

Dr Rahul Gupta, a senior neuro and spine surgeon at Fortis Hospital in Noida, is attending to many young Indians who come to him with weird health queries after scanning Google.

“Self-medication via the internet can be dangerous. Patients at times do not follow our advice and waste our time with silly questions,” he stressed.

According to Gupta, Google is good when it comes to searching for a good doctor, checking spellings of a medication and reading about general health-related issues.

Another danger of self-diagnosis is that you may think that there is more wrong with you than there actually is.

“For example, if you had insomnia, inattention and depression, you may believe that you have a sleep disorder or major depression. Thus, you may make things worse by worrying more as well,” Singal noted.

Self-diagnosis is also a problem when you are in a state of denial about your symptoms.

One may think that generalised body aches started with a worsening of mood, but a doctor may elect to do an electrocardiogram for chest pain that reveals possible coronary artery disease, the experts felt.

Are health websites trustworthy when it comes to answering health symptom queries?

“I don’t see any harm in doing that because it’s about your health after all. In fact, a lot of times my patients come back with queries after surfing about their health abnormality on the internet,” Chhabra said.

So, educate yourself as much before or after you visit your doctor, but let the experts do their job. Let your doctor prescribe you a treatment well-suited for your ailment.

“One should be wise enough to understand which is an authentic website with relevant content as there are a lot of paid sites which exist only to make business,” Chhabra advised.

Vaishya asked youngsters to share their internet-acquired knowledge with the doctor but not to force it upon the doctor to follow it.

“Trust your doctor more than Google,” Gupta summed up. (IANS), (image courtesy: syndicateroom.com)

  • devika todi

    this has major relevance in today’s world. it is a common notion, that if you have common cold and you end up googling it, if the internet is to believed blindly, you could be suffering from cancer!
    leave the job to the experts. do not trust everything you see on the internet.

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  • devika todi

    this has major relevance in today’s world. it is a common notion, that if you have common cold and you end up googling it, if the internet is to believed blindly, you could be suffering from cancer!
    leave the job to the experts. do not trust everything you see on the internet.

Next Story

Do You Know What All Activities Your Smartwatch Can Sense? Read Here To Find Out!

Apps might alert users to typing habits that could lead to repetitive strain injury (RSI), or assess the onset of motor impairments such as those associated with Parkinson's disease.

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To reach this conclusion, Harrison and his team began their exploration of hand activity detection by recruiting 50 people to wear specially programmed smartwatches for almost 1,000 hours while going about their daily activities. Pixabay

Smartwatches, with a few tweaks, can detect a surprising number of things your hands are doing like helping your spouse with washing dishes, chopping vegetables or petting a dog, say researchers from Carnegie Mellon University.

By making a few changes to the smartwatch’s operating system, they were able to use its accelerometer to recognise hand motions and, in some cases, bio-acoustic sounds associated with 25 different hand activities at around 95 percent accuracy.

Those 25 activities (including typing on a keyboard, washing dishes, petting a dog, pouring from a pitcher or cutting with scissors) are just the beginning of what might be possible to detect, the researchers said.

“We envision smartwatches as a unique beachhead on the body for capturing rich, everyday activities,” said Chris Harrison, Assistant Professor in Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) at Carnegie.

smartwatch
Sensing hand activity also lends itself to health-related apps — monitoring activities such as brushing teeth, washing hands or smoking a cigarette.
Pixabay

“A wide variety of apps could be made smarter and more context-sensitive if our devices knew the activity of our bodies and hands,” he added.

Just as smartphones now can block text messages while a user is driving, future devices that sense hand activity might learn not to interrupt someone while they are doing certain work with their hands.

Sensing hand activity also lends itself to health-related apps — monitoring activities such as brushing teeth, washing hands or smoking a cigarette.

“Hand-sensing also might be used by apps that provide feedback to users who are learning a new skill, such as playing a musical instrument, or undergoing physical rehabilitation,” the study noted.

Apps might alert users to typing habits that could lead to repetitive strain injury (RSI), or assess the onset of motor impairments such as those associated with Parkinson’s disease.

To reach this conclusion, Harrison and his team began their exploration of hand activity detection by recruiting 50 people to wear specially programmed smartwatches for almost 1,000 hours while going about their daily activities.

dog
Those 25 activities (including typing on a keyboard, washing dishes, petting a dog, pouring from a pitcher or cutting with scissors) are just the beginning of what might be possible to detect, the researchers said.
Pixabay

More than 80 hand activities were labeled in this way, providing a unique dataset.

For now, users must wear the smartwatch on their active arm, rather than the passive (non-dominant) arm where people typically wear wristwatches, for the system to work.

Also Read: Facebook Creating ‘Inequalities’ Through Political Advertisements

Future experiments will explore what events can be detected using the passive arm.

Harrison and HCII PhD student Gierad Laput presented the findings at “CHI 2019”, the Association for Computing Machinery’s conference on human factors in computing systems in Glasgow, Scotland. (IANS)