You're nursing a sore shoulder and have been for more than a week. Runny nose, watery, itchy eyes bother you daily. And there's that rash that comes and goes on your abdomen. Your concern about any or all of these conditions spur you to look for information about causes and treatments. You're one of many people who seek an answer -- a free diagnosis -- for your medical symptoms. However, consult your health care practitioner for a full evaluation of your condition, diagnosis and prescription of treatment.
Health care providers acknowledge that health care has changed since the advent of the Internet. Patients now frequently take an active role in their health care, changing the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship. With patients now able to use the Internet to aid them in the determination of a diagnosis for their symptoms, physicians no longer have the lead role in being information providers. That role has changed to be a more collaborative effort between physician and patient.
Many hospitals and clinics, such as the Mayo Clinic, the University of Maryland Medical Center, UMMC, and New York-Presbyterian Hospital have websites that are excellent sources of accurate and timely medical information. Look for topics such as "symptom check" on the website to learn what resources are available. You don't have to be a patient of the hospital to use the resources online. Check with your health care provider's office to learn what resources they have available for symptom checking. Some physicians use email to interact with patients and can guide you as to what you can treat at home and what needs medical evaluation.
Using a medical symptom checker to aid in determining diagnosis for simple bumps, bruises, low-grade fevers and sore throats helps you determine what conditions can be treated at home and which ones necessitate a visit to a health care provider. The symptom checkers have helped to alleviate some people's fears, while it has served to heighten the fears of others.
Remember that the health care provider has both education and experience in evaluating the conditions of patients, including those of anxiety. Some conditions will warrant a hands-on evaluation by a trained professional and perhaps blood tests or other types of tests to form an accurate diagnosis. Your knowledge, obtained through various resources, can help reduce some of the fear associated with health care visits and treatments.
- "Patient Counselling and Health Education"; Untangling the Web -- The Impact of Internet Use on Health Care and the Physician-Patient Relationship; Hedy Wald, et al.; November 2007
- "Comprehensive Opthalmology Update"; The Internet's Role in Patient/Physician Interaction -- Bringing Our Understanding in Line With Online Reality; Susan Taub; January-February 2006
- "The New England Journal of Medicine"; Untangling the Web -- Patients, Doctors and the Internet; Pamela Hartzband, M.D. and Jerome Groupman, M.D.; March 2010
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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