Doctors need to clamp down on an army of cyberchondriac patients who self-diagnose from online searches, the country’s leading GP has urged.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said many are adamant they have an illness after consulting Google with their symptoms.
Experts have previously warned such patients are putting the cash-strapped NHS under increasing strain by overrunning GP surgeries and turning up to A&E.
In an interview with Pulse magazine, Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Dr Google enters 80 per cent of consultations that I have now.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said many patients are adamant they have an illness after consulting Google with their symptoms
‘I feel we need to raise that particularly with patients… and we have to work with it and we have to be bold and that’s a challenge for all of us I think.’
Her comments at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference come after amid warnings the problem of self-diagnosis is becoming ‘remarkably common’.
Dr Barbara Barrett, a senior lecturer in health economics at King’s College London, last month said one in five people suffer from health anxiety.
She warned many visit hospitals with exaggerated concerns after researching their condition via ‘Dr Google’ or reading about a celebrity’s health problems.
PUTTING THE NHS UNDER STRAIN
Patients who fear the worst after self-diagnosing over the internet could be putting the NHS under increasing strain, leading doctors warned last January.
An army of ‘cyberchondriacs’ searching for diseases that fit their symptoms are overrunning GP surgeries and A&E departments when they come across worrying results.
Research from a medical helpline estimates that the number of people in the UK using internet searches to diagnose themselves each month has gone up by 60 per cent to 16million.
The study came after NHS bosses warned people on Boxing Day to stay away from Accident and Emergency wards unless necessary.
Evidence to the contrary
Many often believe their condition is far more severe than it really is, ‘despite all medical evidence to the contrary’, Dr Barrett warned.
A Royal Pharmaceutical Society survey in last November found slightly more than half of adults self-diagnose when they are under the weather.
While a YouGov poll of 2,000 British adults recently made similar findings, with 47 per cent admitting to assessing themselves on Google.
Don’t use Google, experts say
Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science warned of the dangers of using Google to diagnose illnesses in 2012.
They reiterated how rigorously trained doctors are likely to give a more accurate diagnosis than the average web user seeking answers from the internet.
Those seeking a diagnosis on Google can also interpret symptoms based on their mindset, with some believing their condition to be worse than it is.
And an analysis of Google searches in 2014 revealed searches for British health-related terms had jumped 13.5 per cent in six years.