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Online Diagnosis

What sort of people look for online diagnosis of their supposed ailments? People just like you and me! Why would we choose this method rather than making a visit to a real, live doctor? Several reasons come to mind:

– Ease of communication: you can sit comfortably at home and click swiftly onto any number of sites offering diagnosis and advice. You don’t have to sustain a lengthy contact at any one time; you could take a break, make a cup of coffee and move the laundry to the drier. You don’t have to make an appointment and the car can stay in the garage.

– Consultation time: you can take all the time you want online and return every time you think of something new that you’d like to find out. How many times do we leave the doctor’s office and then remember something that we forgot to mention? It happens all too commonly and often necessitates a further appointment with the doctor or else we simply put it to the back of our mind until the next visit.

– Shyness about talking of certain delicate, possibly embarrassing symptoms face to face with another person. We may feel that a doctor could be censorious of our behavior even though criticism is unvoiced. Computer contact is less direct; we don’t look into anyone’s eyes and blush or mumble as we outline our symptoms. However sympathetic our doctor, it is undoubtedly easier to describe certain conditions to an impersonal computer.

– Cost is an issue for many people. A consultation with one’s doctor can be expensive and further tests that may be required would be an added expense. Additionally, the cost of transport to and from the doctor’s office is a factor to consider. It is, undoubtedly, a great deal cheaper to seek a diagnosis online and to then treat yourself as you feel appropriate.

There are, however, obvious dangers associated with this modern medical technique of online diagnosis. The principal one is that of misdiagnosis, where a serious, or potentially serious condition is overlooked. The computer is unable to gauge your overall condition from observation of your color, your behavior and your general presentation. If your doctor knows you from earlier visits, he or she will be able to make a comparative judgement. Most importantly, your doctor has recourse to your previous medical history which could have a bearing on your present symptoms. A physical examination is often an important tool for diagnosis.

The practise of online diagnosis will certainly continue to grow. We must be aware that, though convenient, this is an inferior method and must be used with caution. We must acknowledge that nothing can effectively substitute for diagnosis by a doctor.