Broward News

No Waiting Room to See Dr. Google

While we're on the subject of desperate times calling for desperate health-care measures, recent studies have shown that Americans are increasingly relying on the internet to diagnose and treat their medical conditions. What's more, a local academic has discovered that these Googlers are getting rotten advice:

"My overall impression is that the quality of health information varies wildly, almost ridiculously wildly," said Kevin Clauson, a pharmacologist at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "If [a website] is treated as an authoritative source, and there's evidence that it isn't, then it's potentially dangerous."
That quote comes from an article in New Scientist's July issue, and it's been reprinted far and wide, including yesterday's edition of Newsday. Actually, Clauson has been sounding this alarm since at least November 2008, when he gave an interview to Reuters Health.

So why's Clauson getting more than his 15 minutes of fame? Because health care's such a hot topic. And liberal media conspiracies aside, maybe Clauson's findings are a good illustration of how pathetic our nation's current health-care system is, and that some change -- any change -- will be an improvement.

By way of experiment, let's Google "I coughed up blood" and see what we get.

Since Clauson says people rarely make it past the first Google page, we'll take the third entry. "Cancer?" guesses some random people to the 20-year-old who asks about the bloody cough. And here I was deciding between tuberculosis and whooping cough. Of course, that question came from August 2008, so maybe it's too late for him anyway. Now, about that socialist Obama...

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Thomas Francis