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Campaign asks patients to stop Googling for information

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Campaign asks patients to stop Googling for information

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It seems hard to dispute that we’re living in an age where people are increasingly looking to take charge of their own healthcare.  Research has shown that around 70% of us research our condition before we visit the doctor, which probably explains why Google recently started testing a new service to offer remote consultations to those who searched for medical information.

The problem is, most of us appear to want to keep that research a secret when we arrive at the doctors.  A Pew study for instance found that around 50% of us will choose to discuss the information we discover about our condition with our doctor, with the main reason for this being either anegative reactionfrom our doctor, or a perception that one would be forthcoming.

All of which makes a Belgian campaign rather baffling.  The campaign by DDB Brussels aims to stop people turning to Google when they get ill, under the belief that doing so causes them to mis-diagnose their conditions on a mass scale.

They have produced a video (below) and are running an Adwords campaign that sits alongside around 100 medical based keywords.

I have a deadly disease and I am going to die in 6 weeks. Or at least that’s what I thought when I used Google to diagnose my twitching eyelid. I’m not the only one. Instead of consulting a doctor, 75% of the population uses Google to diagnose their systems, and on the internet, anyone can be a doctor. Most cures you’ll find online only makes things worse. The Flemish government commissioned us to prevent people from making this mistake.

It’s a baffling campaign because it seems to ignore the reality that so many people turn to Google as their first port of call.  Rather than understanding where patients turn to for information and engaging with them maturely based upon this knowledge, it seems to treat patients as children instead.  No wonder so many people fail to disclose the research they’ve done prior to visiting a professional.

After all, with Wikipedia being the main source of information for doctors, are they really in any place to be snobs over this?

It also overlooks the fact that many people turn to Google because the health system is so frustratingly slow.  Precious few GP surgeries allow you to even book a consultation online, let alone conduct it over Skype or some other means of remote delivery.  And that’s assuming you can even get an appointment in any kind of decent timescale.

Then, when you do get your appointment, you might get a few minutes with your doctor, of which a chunk will be spent both repeating basic information and then writing up the visit for their notes (which you may or may not have access to).

It’s hardly surprising people want to self-diagnose, is it?  Finally, we’ve seen in the past few years a huge rise in the number of patient communities springing up online.  For instance, Smart Patients is an active community for cancer patients, there are communities for patients with pancreatic cancer and the likes of Health Unlocked for general discussions.

Where do you think most people find out about such communities?  Suffice to say, I’m not a fan of the Belgian campaign, and sincerely hope it doesn’t spread any further.

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