Exciting new developments are happening in Medicine every day but patients are flooded with information and cannot keep up with the latest evidence. Navigating the sea of information available online can be daunting at best, and dangerous at worst.
A close family member of mine has been suffering from Crohn’s Disease for over 15 years. He was struck in his mid twenties and had to undergo countless surgeries. His journey from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital without any relief highlights the lack of consensus on courses of treatment and the heterogeneity of care. After years of looking for a long-term solution to help manage recurring infections, he came upon an online article highlighting a simple day-to-day approach that immediately provided relief. This was not a recommendation from his doctors but information he had uncovered through his own extensive online research.
Doctors are overburdened with patients and (understandably) cannot dedicate the appropriate time and attention to each individual case. Patients not only have the ability but a responsibility to do their own research and learn about their diagnosis and the available treatments. The question is, how can someone without the benefit of a formal medical education make sense of and vet all the information they come across?
I am the co-developer of MedNexus, a medical search engine for patients – think “Google for Medicine”. At MedNexus we believe having access to the right information can change someone’s life. We have developed a solution to cut through the noise of typical health sites. We want to provide a viable alternative to WebMD and all the pseudo-science you can find online, and enable patients to engage in meaningful conversations with their doctor.
Through our search engine, you can find the most relevant content from a variety of sources: medical journals, government health sites, patient forums, etc. Whether you are looking for the latest evidence, or to learn from fellow patients, you can find reliable and actionable answers at MedNexus.
Please keep in mind that our platform is still a work in progress! We are happy to get your feedback (and constructive criticism) to help us improve on it.
Data from 61 million health internet searches, reveals the trend for self-
diagnoses is on the rise
The top ten of most common health searches reveals back pain, diarrhoea and depression as our leading concerns
One in four people in the UK admit to self-diagnosing illnesses rather than make time for a doctor’s appointment.
UK Digital Health Report from PushDoctor.co.uk, reveals Internet UK’s first port of call when feeling unwell
One in four people in the UK admit to self-diagnosing illnesses rather than make time for a doctor’s appointment.
Research reveals that 22% of people have chosen to diagnose their symptoms on the web because they were unable to get a doctor’s appointment (11%) or because their GP wasn’t available quickly enough (10.8%). The report also reveals that the internet is now the first place people go for advice when starting to feel unwell, more so than their partner or a medical professional. This is true for all age groups under 65 years old.
The report, published by PushDoctor.co.uk, suggests the UK is becoming a nation of impatient patients, who are not willing to change plans to accommodate appointments to see their GP.
When asked what they would not be prepared to cancel in order to fit in a doctor’s appointment for a health issue causing them ‘moderate concern’, 47% literally weren’t prepared to get out of bed, saying that they wouldn’t miss the opportunity of a lie in to see their doctor. An additional 50% wouldn’t cancel a gym session, 46% would keep arrangements to meet friends for lunch and 38% wouldn’t even be prepared to rearrange plans for a shopping trip.
Analysis of data from 61 million UK internet searches for 160 leading health issues, reveals the trend for self-diagnoses is on the rise, up 19% over the last 12 months (an average of an extra 848,000 searches each month).
The most common health searches reveal that back pain, diarrhea and depression are our leading concerns.
To find out more PatientTalk.org interviewed Dr Dawn Harper and Eren Ozagir to find out more.
PATIENTTALK.ORG – I’ve just got a few questions for you, so first question is what is the history of online self-diagnosis?
DR DAWN HARPER -As an NHS G.P I can tell you that actually the use of the internet is relatively recent in terms of health care but it has increased majorly, so I am at the point now where I can’t remember the last time I did a surgery when somebody didn’t come in having already consulted Dr Google and they usually come in and have printed a wodge of paper , they have often diagnosed something very rare but almost always quite serious and they are frightened or really terrified so I think we need to be very realistic about the fact that online diagnosis is here to stay with that said its relatively speaking a good thing and I also can’t remember the last time I did a surgery without using the internet, we are very time pressured in the NHS and I’ve only got around 10-12 minutes to deal with your problem so quite often I would either direct people to specific websites that I know will give them reliable information or I print things off for patients there and then so that they know they have got other information / back up information to take home and I know that they know what the next step should be.
PATIENTTALK.ORG -With online self- diagnosis what type of technology does that use?
EREN OZAGIR – So Push Doctor uses really simple technology because it needs to appeal to the majority of people , people like you and me to use our old mobiles / tablets / phones depending on where we are and what we need and so the technology is actually a standard website but behind that is a complex secured digital consultation software but the video quality is really interesting as a technical piece , unlike other technology that you may have used on something like skype or FaceTime well actually Push Doctor uses HIPAA Proved, which is the United States health human services approved secure technology which means that the video consultations that the patients and Doctors enjoy on Push Doctor are encrypted and secured and at the end burned and trashed so that there is no recordings of patients and clinicians. So it’s an innovate piece of kit and its same kit actually that google uses across the world for billions of video transactions across android devices so we know that it works on scale with 3G, 4G and on WIFI.
PATIENTTALK.ORG Back to self-diagnosis what are the risks of miss-diagnosis?
DR DAWN HARPER -Interestedly when patients are using Dr Google about two thirds of them have actually got their diagnosis wrong when we are looking at something like push doctor because of the clarity of the video footage and I’ve been online and obviously checked them myself actually you get a very good picture , now for most doctors I remember having a lovely professor at medical school who said ‘ a good doctor is someone who knows what’s going on at the end of the conversation, before you have even touched them’ whereas actually a lot of patients thinks that a good doctor is one who orders a whole battery of tests , so most of the diagnosis is in the story so actually using this kind of technology for the majority of cases is actually the equivalent of being in the clinic with me, I can hear your story but I can also look at your body language, I can tell whether you are in pain and see how you hold yourself because a lot of those nonverbal ques helps us in making a diagnosis and its exactly the same using something like push doctor as it would be if I saw you in surgery.
PATIENTTALK.ORG Can you give some practical examples of its use?
DR DAWN HARPER -Well Interestedly 80% of G.P’s consultations do not require me to actually touch you, to examine you so 80% of the consultations I do in surgery are just about us looking at each other, picking up those nonverbal ques and me talking to you and listening to you and so for all of those sorts of consultations this type of technology is absolutely perfect. So for people who have any kind of stress related problem, a lot of some of them more minor elements that we might see, common coughs or colds, something that we don’t need to examine your chest for example then that would be a perfectly appropriate thing for me to deal with on this kind of service, rashes you know it’s very easy for me to look at a rash and very rarely do I need to actually touch a rash and what’s lovely about this is that for the patient you have got this very assessable service that’s open till 10pm at night 7 days a week and you just simple go online, you can book your appointment to fit in with you and you will get a GMT registered doctor who will give you an opinion now, if you turn out to be somebody who perhaps does need an examination then that doctor can direct you and tell you who you need to see , when you need to see them, what sort of things you need to be saying and asking.
PATIENTTALK.ORG Which conditions are most suitable?
DR DAWN HARPER -Any condition that doesn’t need me to physically examine you, can actually be treated with this kind of service and interestedly that is the majority so 80% of the people that I see in surgery I don’t actually need to get up on my couch and physically examine them and any of those people could be helped by this kind of service.
PATIENTTALK.ORG -Can you tell us a bit more about the report? You know with the stats saying that self-diagnosis is up by 20%?
EREN OZAGIR -The push doctor national health report looks at a whole range of symptoms and traffic online and its discovered that 1 in 4 of us have been self-diagnosing on the web rather than seeing a G.P and the majority of those are consulting on the web because they have been unable to get a doctor’s appointment at all or they have been unable to get one quickly enough in their opinion and that’s because more and more of us are used to getting what we want, faster and on demand and what’s been really interesting is that some of the other data that’s come out of the report about what patients are willing to put up with and that they are willing to put up with certain conditions for a longer period of time in order for their general day not to be disturbed so 50% of people went even willing to ditch a gym session to get the medical advice they need and deserve and 47% of the people that we spoke to were unable to give up a lay in in bed when they needed to go to the doctors, I mean those numbers are quite scary actually so one of the things that’s great about push doctor is obviously we are able to bring the doctor to patients home and work environments and give them an opportunity to fit as they expect that important medical advice into their day to prevent conditions from getting worse. Some of the other things that we have discovered along the way is that slightly more women than men are searching for their symptoms online and when people start to feel unwell the majority will research online rather then ask a partner or friend and lastly what was concerning from the statistics was that more people who used to do absolutely nothing about the things that is concerning them rather then ask a friend or a relative for their opinion so they were afraid to share and sharing your medical concerns is a really important part of you realising you need help or getting help and whether that is with a partner or friend or indeed a G.P , one of our missions at Push Doctor is to make that sharing easier and more accessible even if it’s on a private basis on a one to one discussion online using our video service.
PATIENTTALK.ORG Given the findings in the report does this not suggest serious weakness within the UKS’s NHS?
DR DAWN HARPER -As an NHS practising G.P I have seen huge changes really in the last ten / twenty years and I think it’s only been very recent actually that we are a truly a national health service, I think up until recent years it’s been a national health service when people only come to me when they are poorly, we have become much better at proactive medicine, were screening more people , we are bringing more people into the surgery and testing them, that’s really good thing but it inevitably increases the pressure on the NHS and I think there isn’t a person in this country that doesn’t appreciate that the NHS is under pressure, I constantly hear my patients saying they had to wait two weeks for an appointment to see me , the frustrations are on both sides on the fence believe me because I find it frustrating as well and I think a service like Push Doctor actually really does add an extra boat or arm if you like , it reduces the pressure on the NHS, it’s convenient for the patient, it frees me up to be able to see the people that I really do need to see face to face but also the policy is unless a patient specifically requests it there is communication between your Push Doctor and your G.P so then we can pick up the pieces if we need to refer on or we need to follow something up we can do that so I see it as a really positive thing for the NHS and something that we should be embracing.
PATIENTTALK.ORG Can it be integrated into a conventional health care provision and if it can how?
EREN OZAGIR – Push Doctor is integrated already into conventional health care, we are already obliged to inform your regular doctor of your conditions or the things that we have discovered when you’re in consultant Push doctor, obviously if that’s not something you want to do then you can opt out of that and your records are maintained and kept very private but actually as a matter of course we would normally write to your regular doctor and let them know what we have discovered , what we have been exploring and what we recommend and what we agreed together between you and your doctor. Additionally Push doctor is NHS commissioned and we’ve provided an enhance tech to NHS G.P’s and NHS patients who are consulting on a platform , so there’s 24,000 that are enjoying the service and it is making up a general part of what you said conventional health care, it’s an important thing to get right, the technology that we are integrating into the NHS is proving out to safe time both for patients and clinicians , its having a brilliant access score with patients who are really feeding back with 5 out of 5 starts for accessibility but that’s really important is that we ask every patient who uses our service in the NHS whether they found that the technology made it easier to see a clinician with the exception of one, 4 out of 5 people would say it’s very likely or extremely likely that they would use the service , sorry in the majority of cases the feedback from patients is that they found it very easy to see a clinician on Push doctor and that actually enhanced their experience of visiting and using the NHS.