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Cyberchondria -

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Cyberchondria

TRANSCRIPT

Comments

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Have you ever tried diagnosing a medical condition by searching the internet? Well, you're not
alone.

Chelsea

If I think I have symptoms for certain things, perhaps I might look up some of the symptoms.

Cameron

Oh it's there. I'm in front of the computer anyway so I won't get on the phone or go to see a
doctor; I'll just look it up.

Catherine

It saves a trip to the doctor.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

More and more Australians are turning to the net for medical advice and it's making doctors very
nervous.

Dr Brian Morton

I'm sure some patients do think the internet can replace their GP.

Associate Professor Jared Dart

It's important to realise that diagnosis itself is a skill which is acquired over time, and I often
say to people, you know if your car broke down on the side of the road in a plume of smoke, would
you try and fix it? And the same really should apply to your health.

NARRATION

No one doubts that the internet is a powerful educational tool but it can also be very misleading.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

There are sites where you can type in your symptoms and it gives you a diagnosis. For example, say
I type in 'cough', it says I have the flu. That sounds reasonable. But what if I typed in something
like 'sore eye'. It tells me I have cancer.

NARRATION

The familiar branding makes this site look trustworthy. But it's actually a bogus website with no
credibility. It's not surprising that more and more people are turning up to the doctor with
'cyberchondria'.

Associate Professor Jared Dart

Cyberchondria is just a term that's been coined from cyber which means online and hyperchondria
which is an abnormal or dysfunctional obsession with symptoms. If you're self-diagnosing, you don't
have an objective perspective on the situation. So if you're a worrier, you might think that a
headache is actually a sign of a brain tumour.

NARRATION

But using the internet as a supplement to the doctor can be useful. Sonya's mother was persistently
coughing after being exposed to someone with whooping cough.

Dr Brian Morton

It seemed natural that she would have whooping cough as well. And I'm sure she had it. But the
problem was her cough continued for much longer than expected.

Sonya Ogyur

My mum was put on some blood pressure medication. So I searched from the internet and I found that
it might cause her irritating dry cough.

Dr Brian Morton

Now I was still down the track of thinking of whooping cough but when they commented on one of her
medications the penny dropped for me and we decided to use a different agent and I think her cough
responded fairly quickly after that.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Of course there are a lot of sites you can trust but even the most credible sites have their
limitations.

Dr Brian Morton

The face to face consultation provides a history, and then a physical examination if that's
appropriate. That physical examination will demonstrate sometimes a wealth of other info.

NARRATION

Some doctors are now directing their patients to trusted websites for more information.

Associate Professor Jared Dart

Patients say that they feel much more comfortable the more they know about their health conditions.
So we're hoping that there will be better compliance with medication, and they'll feel more in
control of their health.

Dr Brian Morton

I think people looking up their medication, checking out their diagnosis, is quite a good
empowering thing, but it needs to be filtered through a professional.