Medical professionals often advise patients not to search the Internet for their symptoms before coming into the clinic, yet many people turn to “Dr. Google” when feeling sick. Concerns about “cyberchondria”—or increased anxiety induced by the Internet—have made the value of using Internet searches controversial. In a new study that used case vignettes, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy explored the impact Internet searches have on patients’ abilities to reach a correct diagnosis. They found that study outcomes suggest the Internet may not be so harmful after all. Participants across the board demonstrated modest improvements in reaching an accurate diagnosis after looking up symptoms on the Internet. Participants additionally showed no difference in reported anxiety nor in triage abilities. Results are published in JAMA Network Open.
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