Doctors used to frown at patients who research their symptoms online. They scare themselves easily when they check out what they have on the Internet, and they mostly believe diagnosis from websites such as WebMD and Mayo Clinic. While these are reputable websites, they are no way better than an actual diagnosis from a physician you face in person.

Fortunately, doctors are more welcome to the idea that their patients have surely checked the Internet for their symptoms before consulting with them. There are even those who sought online help for herpes treatment and other conditions. Physicians have finally learned to tolerate the many questions and concerns that their patients raise because of the knowledge they got from medical websites.

Symptom Checkers Are Not a Waste of Time

Contrary to what many believe, symptoms checker such as those you find on WebMD and other healthcare websites are not a waste of time. Studies have found that they are more than 50% accurate and that their treatment suggestions are the same as with actual doctors’ advice, 60% of the time.

In many cases, knowledge is power, and information is essential to the overall collaboration between patients and doctors. There is more understanding between the two parties when patients have an idea of what they could be facing, health-wise. And since patients are more learned now than three decades ago, it makes it easier for doctors to suggest treatment options.

Even though there are still a lot of apprehensions about online symptoms checker, it is always better than getting no input at all. People need to understand that a “diagnosis” gleaned from the Internet is just one piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t reflect the overall considerations that doctors make when they meet you face-to-face.

Patients Need to Be Careful

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But here’s when self-diagnosing gets bad: when patients refuse to listen to their doctors’ advice because of something they read on the Internet. While some resources on the Internet are excellent and well-crafted, some are bad and do not have the patients’ best interest at heart.

People need to identify the right websites that they can use to understand the urgency of their medical needs. They certainly cannot rely on crowdsourcing from social media or some other fly-by-night websites that claim to be medical related. If they do, not only are they endangering themselves, but they might be scaring themselves silly of something that can easily be remedied by a visit to an actual doctor.

Online Symptoms Checker Are Getting Better

Online symptoms checkers are getting better. Most of them now use the same algorithm that doctors use to come up with a diagnosis. Patients are asked to check general symptoms before they are asked further questions to narrow into a diagnosis. They are also asked to provide their age and gender.

The system will only come up with the best matches for their symptoms. Weaker matches are not included in the results. When users type in general symptoms and don’t provide more specific symptoms, the system will respond that there are no possible matches and that the user should see a physician instead.

While these symptoms checkers are, by no means, a substitute to seeing a physician, they act as a preliminary triage for those who need to see a doctor immediately and those who don’t need to go to the hospital right away. It prevents instances of overtreatment and unclogs doctors’ offices and hospital emergency rooms. In a way, these systems don’t only benefit patients but the healthcare system as well.