Co-Written By Amy Nora
Paging Dr. Google…..Paging Dr. Google. Dr. Google?? Yup, you read that right, Dr. Google. Why do I call google Dr. Google? That’s simple, I call it this due to the fact that millions of people use this search engine to “diagnose” an issue they may be having, rather than seeing an actual doctor. How many of you have ever used a google search bar to search for the cause of some new symptom you’ve developed? Or to learn more about a new diagnosis? I would guess almost every person reading this has done just that at some point in the last few months. While Google is good for some things, like looking for news, memes or even looking up how to make household repairs like changing a showerhead. One thing it is NOT good for is looking up new symptoms or health issues.
Google offers up many options and opinions on anything you could ever want to search for. Due to this, it should never be used as the SOLE source for figuring out or diagnosing a medical problem. When you use Google to search and don’t know how to use it properly it is highly likely that all you will end up doing is scaring yourself into assuming the worst.
How many times have you googled a new symptom you’ve developed and the first result that comes back is cancer or some other scary diagnosis? You aren’t alone in that. I think it’s safe to say that happens every day around the world. Even though Dr. Google has convinced you that you are dying, chances are that when you see an actual doctor about said symptom it ends up being something much less scary then what your Google search has diagnosed you with. Google can be a very helpful and valuable tool IF you know how to look at the results a search may yield.
You may not know that there are certain sites, like Wikipedia, where anyone who wishes can update information even if they have no training or education on that topic. Jane Doe who has no training in Lupus could go onto Wikipedia and write up a reference that will come up on a google search. Even though she has no training and has learned what she knows from a google search. Do you really want to trust Jane Doe with your health? Other sites like Mayo or Cleveland Clinic will only post information on topics that have been researched and has evidence to back it up. So it is important to remember that just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t always mean it’s correct.
Before I jump into my tips for searching and things to remember, one thing that is important to remember when using any search engine; the data you will find is only from the database of that particular search engine and NOT the whole World Wide Web. A search done on another search engine will likely yield different results. A search on google will likely bring up different information than a search on bing.
Things to remember when using any search engine:
The accuracy of a search will depend on the greater number of search words used. For instance a search for fatigue associated with Lupus will be much more accurate than only searching for fatigue.
Be specific and try to exclude any irrelevant words when searching, the more specific the better. For example try searching pleurisy associated with lupus , rather than pain in my lungs when I breathe due to lupus.
Remember to check more than one search engine due to the fact that results will vary widely depending on what search you use.
Most search engines will provide a relevancy ranking showing you how closely the results match your search. In general it is not necessary to look through more than the first page or two of results.
Make sure that you use a sufficient amount of keywords in your search. One big mistake people make is not providing enough keywords. When searching for new treatment options for lupus some keywords you might want to use would be, new, drug, drugs, therapy, treatment and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
Tips for determining credibility of result/reference.
Look for sites from established institutions. You want to only use sites that have been around for a while that have a proven track record of reliability and integrity. Sites that you can always count on to be reliable are those run by government agencies, non-profit organizations or colleges and universities.
Look for sites that have expertise in the topic you are searching for. For example, you wouldn’t want to talk to a plumber about your electrical issues. Just like you wouldn’t want to get information about your Lupus from a site about orthopedics. If you are looking for information on your health a good site is and always will be the Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Health , The Mayo Clinic, or The Cleveland Clinic
Beware of any site that is trying to sell you something. Sites that are run by businesses usually end in .com and are usually trying to sell you something. If they are trying to sell you something the Information they are presenting is likely going to be tilted in favor of whatever they are selling. Not all companies will be like this. Just be cautious.
Check the date of the results, if it was written 10 years ago you should probably find something newer. One way to check is to look for a “last updated” date on the site.
Avoid Information written by an anonymous author. Studies or articles who names the author are generally more reliable. When someone is willing to put their name on an article it is usually more accurate because the author doesn’t want to be associated with wrong info. You can also check the credentials of an author if you have the name.
Using the internet as a source is indispensable; however, it is important to keep in mind that reliable and up to date sources are used. Hopefully keeping in mind these tips will help give you better and more accurate information rather than opinion information written by just anyone.
Amber & Amy