Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Internet Is Not A Doctor

One of the cool things about working at Microsoft was that I was able to talk to the people working in Microsoft Research(MSR). MSR is basically a playpen where researchers come up with cool ideas, research them, and hope to make a product out of their findings. Only 1 in 100 ideas even get OUT of MSR and fewer still make it to production, but MSR did give birth to a couple of great ideas like the surface top computer.

Anyhow, MSR recently published a paper about cyberchondria, which is basically "internet hypochondria". The premise is that if you wake up with a head ache and search for "head aches" online, you will often find links that state head aches are a symptom of a brain tumour (which can be true). However, you, not being a doctor, don't realize that "brain tumour" is not the only diagnosis for a patient presenting with a headache. In fact, when you consider your age and medical history...brain tumour may be (and often is) the LEAST likely diagnosis. It could just be...that you have a head ache.

Now, don't get me wrong, being curious about your illness and doing some research regarding your symptoms is a great idea. You should also feel comfortable telling your doctor about your concerns if you're worried your symptoms are indicative of a specific illness. However, there IS a problem with doing online research about your symptoms if you're the type of person to panic because some pretend med student wrote an article that makes you think you have brain cancer because you woke up with a little head ache. Long story short...don't blow your life savings because the internet made you think you're going to die soon.

No comments: