The public generally should not trust online diagnoses, reports Popular Science. A study published by the British Medical Journal described how researchers tested 23 websites offering diagnosis and triage services. The researchers input patient vignettes listing symptoms associated with specific illnesses. The websites identified the right diagnoses only about a third of the time.
Approximately 40 percent of the diagnosis sites do not even list the correct illnesses in their top 20 diagnoses, says Popular Science. Researchers found that online symptom checkers do not cut down on needless doctor visits. Using these sites could cause harm by causing people to experience elevated levels of anxiety. Online medical information sites are only useful if patients use them as nondefinitive tools for starting conversations with doctors and triage nurses.
When it comes to mental health, self-diagnosis through online resources is risky and inadvisable, reports Psychology Today. For example, people with mood swings might self-diagnose themselves with bipolar disorder. However, trained professionals understand that mood swings are associated with a wide variety of mental and physical ailments. Psychological symptoms can also point to serious chronic diseases such as brain tumors. Patients need to work with doctors they can trust to sort out these issues and make accurate diagnoses.