About 82% of the people who answered a recent Scanadu poll question say they search online first about their symptoms, before turning to their doctors. Even some doctors who responded said they searched first.
This is a relatively recent phenomenon. When we launched DrGreene.com in 1995 people didn’t have access to medical information. Subscriptions to medical journals were very expensive or locked in medical libraries that were only accessible to medical professionals.
But the Web forever changed this dynamic, and the mobile web put the world’s information about symptoms at people’s fingertips wherever they happen to be.
It can take days or weeks to get a doctor’s appointment. You can start learning about symptoms online in seconds. And it’s far easier to do a search for ringworm than to bundle a child in a minivan and brave the waiting room full of other sick kids.
Searching for symptoms first also changes the dynamic when people do connect directly with their doctors. Knowing the lay of land can allow for a richer and more targeted discussion. This can help get the most out of the interaction.
In the 20 years since we launched this site, it has become easy to find information online about conditions and symptoms. It’s much harder for people to access valuable information about their own bodies.
What’s ahead? I believe we are entering a new era in health. An era of searching your own body and your microbiome for data. “Googling the Internet within” will become as easy as searching the Web. That change will usher in a new dimension of health.
NOTE: Dr. Greene plays key roles at Scanadu and uBiome, two companies on the forefront of health innovation.