The Dangers of NOT Using Dr Google

Melinda Seed writes for Twice Diabetes
Melinda Seed writes for Twice Diabetes

Heard lots of discouraging things about the danger of health information on the net? What about the dangers of NOT doing so?

The lovely “Endocrine Witch” posted this picture that had been doing the rounds on her Facebook feed. She has blogged about why she took on her colleagues to say she found the note offensive, thanks Iris, proof that many doctors are embracing  21st century technology!


I can imagine that it’s irritating when a patient comes to you convinced that they’ve got bubonic plague or smallpox, but you need to deal with it, it’s part of the job and whether it’s the internet or Dr Smith’s medical encyclopedia people always have and always will self-diagnose.

There are multiple warnings about the dangers of relying on health information online and the implication (or as in the case above, the order) is we should put our faith entirely in what the doctor says. Well, there are dangers in that approach as well.

I want to know why we don’t talk more about the dangers of NOT listening to Dr Google.

I had lunch with Stanford MedX Coordinator of ePatient Programs @afternoonnapper when she was visiting Sydney. She diagnosed her extremely rare and at that time undiagnosed (despite symptoms like strokes whilst still young) condition with information she’d learnt on the net, got in contact with the leading expert in the field via email and got the care that “conventional” medicine had denied her for many years. An inspiring story of perseverance and the power of the net.

If Google had been around when I was an infant, perhaps the doctors wouldn’t have taken weeks and it getting to the stage that I was almost dead before they tested me for diabetes.  As the erudite and passionate e-patient Carolyn Thomas of Heart Sisters said on Iris’s blog

I’m pretty sure that if only the Emergency physician who misdiagnosed me with GERD and sent me home in mid-heart attack had bothered to Google my symptoms (central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm), both he and Dr. Google would have come up with only one possible (and correct!) diagnosis: myocardial infarction.”

Tragically, I came across an example of the sort of arrogance illustrated in the picture above that cost a teenage patient her life recently.

“Doctors told 19-year-old Bronte Doyne and her family to “stop googling” her symptoms after they brought up the possibility that her rare liver cancer had returned. By the time she was readmitted to the hospital in March of 2013, it was already too late and she died 10 days later …” from

The girl had cancer for heavens sake, she was 19 years old why weren’t her and her family’s concerns taken seriously? Perhaps if the doctors who are responsible for her death had checked the reputable Google site to which the family referred, she’d be alive today.

I think it’s about time some doctors stopped treating patients like idiots, we know the difference between snake oil and information that’s worth further investigation.  The ability to assess websites and online information is a skill most patients have these days.  I’ve heard much more rubbish about diabetes in GPs offices and hospitals than I have on the quality sites and patient communities that I frequent online.

dTraBenT9I’m not suggesting that people eschew health care in favour of the internet, you’d have to be crazy to do that.  But if you have concerns whether they’re informed by the internet, symptoms or something you saw on TV, don’t be brushed off by doctors who won’t take you seriously. Seek second or third opinions, push for that blood test or MRI, ask chemists or nurses about who the leader in the relevant field is and push to get an explanation and diagnostic testing. If a particular treatment is recommended, research it, seek out patient groups and learn of others’ experiences with this treatment and/or alternate medical treatments.

What are the potential costs of ignoring Doctor Google?

One thought on “The Dangers of NOT Using Dr Google

  1. My husband’s current GP (who we’re going to leave AGAIN to find a different one) HATES if we mention anything from Dr Google. It infuriates me – I am a trained freaking researcher and can assess sources very well, regardless of the subject. My husband is very logical and doesn’t over react to things – he notes down everything that might be useful specifically because doctors can’t diagnose him and don’t know if his BSL is part of what other condition he has or both or what.

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