The World Wide Web can enable you to discover important medical information at any time, anywhere and on any mobile device. It can reveal treatment methods that your doctor may not have provided, and it can help you to understand your diagnosis in ways that short medical appointments just can’t accomplish. It can, at its best, transform you from a passive sponge of your doctor’s advice to an active researcher educating yourself with every article, video or podcast.
The Internet also provides access to online communities ranging from chat rooms to discussion boards, which can inspire, motivate and help you feel less isolated when attempting to learn about potential health issues.
While the Internet is a wonderful source of information, it can also be a bottomless wormhole of outdated, incorrect and unintelligible misinformation. Which websites should you trust? After reading peer reviews, which specialists should you visit? With so much contradictory information, how do you know what to believe?
Let’s explore how these issues, and more, often make the Internet a difficult path to navigate when looking for medical advice, as well as what you can do instead to live your happiest and healthiest life possible.
- Finding a trusted resource
How can you be sure if the resources you’ve uncovered on the web are to be trusted? During your research, you’ll be inundated with theories and strategies that often contradict each other while some are flat-out wrong.
As an example: You’ve probably read the calorie in/calorie out theory that states weight loss is simply about burning more calories per day than you take in. Or what about the notion that consuming cholesterol will increase your cholesterol numbers?
Sound familiar? Are these ideas even true? Turns out, these examples are mostly inaccurate. How can you – how can any of us – differentiate between accurate statements, partially accurate statements, and downright misstatements?
- Traditional Western and complementary medicine
There is often a huge division between traditional Western and complementary medicine advice on the web despite the fact they can work wonderfully in unison. Yet time and again information on the Internet suggests utilizing only one of these two approaches for ailments while discrediting the other. The art is to know which combination of methodologies and methods will best serve you and your individual needs.
- Understanding why
It’s one thing to read health advice on the web, but it’s quite another to understand the “why” behind it.
A perfect example: A diabetic is told to cut down on sugar by her doctor, but what if she’s also told why? If she learns that too much sugar in the bloodstream damages the eyes, hardens arteries, and can lead to amputations, then the advice of eliminating sugar from her diet starts to make sense.
We act when we understand.
- Ills of doctor reviews
Have you ever looked at Yelp for reviews of local restaurants and merchants? Ever notice how people tend to leave reviews when they’ve had a negative experience more so than a positive one?
It has become human nature to express consumer dissatisfaction on the web, which often results in skewed metrics.
Real-world consequences of online review websites include doctors prescribing unnecessary tests and medications so you won’t go online and write, “The doctor didn’t even do anything to help me get better.”
Doctors may also spend too much time encouraging you to leave them positive reviews instead of really getting at the heart of your ailment. Such are the fears of poor online reviews.
- Analysis paralysis
You’ve read the articles: Drinking coffee is good for you. Drinking coffee is bad for you. A glass of red wine is healthy. A glass of red wine is unhealthy.
And on and on it goes until you’re so overwhelmed with conflicting information that you become paralyzed with confusion and end up taking no action at all.
- Fear lurking on every web page
Go visit any health and medical website and enter “abdominal pain.” Suggestions for the discomfort include serious issues like gallstones, hernias, and appendicitis.
Those are some serious causes for what could potentially be just a run-of-the-mill tummy ache induced from poor digestion or constipation.
Ask your doctor what she thinks of medical information online. What you’ll get is a strong opinion. Doctors know that self-diagnosis and self-prescribed treatment methods and medications can muddy the waters and take a patient down the wrong path. The value of the Internet should be to find clarity, motivate you to find better choices and uncover beneficial treatments that you may not have found otherwise – not to scare you into inaction or to give you misinformation to badger your practitioner with.
- Implementing Internet advice
Oftentimes, advice on the Internet can include a daunting laundry list of to-dos. If there are too many steps, complicated instructions or poorly communicated reasons to act, you may not find the motivation to act and stick with it.
What you can do instead
While the health and medical field can be a confusing place on the Internet packed with infinite pieces of advice and information, there are some hidden gems out there that want to help you.
From diabetes to insomnia to basic health advice, there are sites featuring trustworthy doctors that will provide you with free video series, podcasts, and more dedicated to helping you live a long and healthy life. You can even contact them directly with the confidence of knowing that potential negative Yelp-like reviews won’t influence the diagnosis and treatments.
Find sources that you trust that integrate traditional Western and complementary medicines based around your issues, needs and that provide support to ensure you see your lifestyle changes through.
No more feeling overwhelmed by fear-based misinformation laden with convoluted steps that paralyze action.
With the support of these credible doctors and websites, you’ll be able to make better choices that add additional years, mobility and quality to your life.