Online health sites can’t replace a doctor



October 23, 2019 - 9:52 AM

Dear Dr. Roach: I have been concerned I might have a medical condition. When looking up specific diseases on the internet, there is usually a site that will state the 10 or so symptoms or signs of that particular ailment.  Should I be concerned if I have two or less of these particular symptoms? Does that mean I definitely don’t have that condition? — Z. O’B.


Answer: There are a variety of online tools to help people understand their symptoms. Some of these, usually called symptom checkers, are pretty thoughtful, and can make a reasonable list of possibilities to be concerned about. However, they don’t replace a skilled doctor. Communication isn’t always so easy as asking a single question and being satisfied with the answer. Often a doctor needs to ask the question a couple of different ways, or use language more appropriate to a person’s background.

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