Can a visit to WebMD (or another similar health website) save your life? A new survey from Philips revealed this result: one in 10 Americans said yes. According to the press release that shared the findings, 11 percent of consumers surveyed believe “if it were not for web-based health information, they might already be dead or severely incapacitated.”
While health care professionals would probably not admonish self-diagnosis and developing a recommended treatment plan via the internet, this confidence and interest in online medical resources may not be all bad. Perhaps it shows motivation and empowerment on the part of individuals to take charge of their health, to learn more about how to care for their bodies and maintain wellness. Perhaps it will help patients feel more at ease with asking their doctors questions about their health or about a diagnosis or recommended treatment.
Unfortunately, there are countless websites with inaccurate, misleading information out there, which is particularly dangerous when it comes to data about health. However, it is the job of all of us who search online for information of any kind — and for those who provide that information — to carefully evaluate sites before taking their word as gold. Check with trustworthy friends and family about the sites they’ve found helpful. Recommend reputable sites via social media or word-of-mouth. Above all, remember: the internet is a valuable tool, but it’s only one piece of pursuing important information or making a decision.