DoctorxDentist CEO Tristan Hahner shares some insights on Cyberchondria and how to recognise untrusted sources of fake medical news on the internet.
By Alex Chen
Search online for health advice, and you will get a ton of information. But to sieve out a rumour or a myth amidst the noise is tough. Furthermore, with the huge rise in fake news particularly around COVID-19, having legitimate medical advice that you can trust is paramount.
According to official communication by the Government of Singapore on Gov.sg, 77% of the population came across fake medical news primarily through groups on Facebook and WhatsApp. Which could be due to the lack of legitimate medical advisory platforms to provide clarity in such an uncertain time for people and healthcare.
On the social and personal impacts of Cyberchondria, self-diagnosis of one’s conditions can be an extremely dangerous trend. This is often linked to anxiety, online addiction and other negative aspects associated with excessive Internet use.
At the same time, although we now have easy access to a plethora of medical information online, there is a possibility that while some are written by credible sources, but unfortunately, much of the information we find online is not written or verified by a medical professional, hence, for the typical reader, it is difficult to establish the relevance and credibility of the source. As a result, it leads to risks and consequences when one relies heavily on pseudo-medical help online.
As an organization, concerns about Cyberchondria have been regularly brought up, as it is an emerging problem particularly in this day and age, and even more detrimental during a time of panic in a pandemic.
Before accepting medical advice online, it is important to understand that medical information is uniquely sensitive, therefore, it must be considered differently as compared to other online information – illegitimacy and anonymity on these medical platforms are the key red flags that should turn you away from the advice altogether. This is because Doctors in Singapore have a standard of medical conduct that imposes a duty on themselves to take reasonable care to treat those under their care, and by law must give their certification and identity before providing medical advice.
In order to share accurate assessments and advice their patients accordingly to manage their fears and concerns, DoctorxDentist has always kept to these rules, ensuring that their patients are met with the care they need.
With over 500 Doctors across 40 specialties, all of whom are registered with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), DoctorxDentist ensures that all medical advice provided on its platform are certified, and anonymity is avoided and not permitted. This way, it removes the walls of uncertainty and cyberchondria.
Another leading trend observed was that, with fake medical knowledge, patients’ may sometimes mistrust Doctors and their professional diagnosis and present something they have read or heard from an unverified source.
If a patient presents certain symptoms with a fixed diagnosis in mind, while leaving out other potentially relevant symptoms, they will be resistant to a Clinician’s advice, which will prevent a physician from making an accurate diagnosis when they are not given a full understanding of the patient’s condition which can again create more harm. In the worst-case scenario, there are far-reaching implications, where treatment options can spiral down unnecessary paths often with expensive tests if Doctors are working with a misleading set of information presented by their patients.
DoctorxDentist is a reliable medical advisory platform that is free from unverified sources. Registered Doctors are the professional experts in their respective fields, and can advise patients accordingly. Furthermore, if the symptom or condition requires further attention, an appointment can be scheduled immediately with the doctor who had addressed the concern, and since there is no anonymity from the Doctor, there is no need to search for a Specialist.
With regards to the COVID-19 outbreak and establishment of the “new normal” in healthcare, DoctorxDentist is committed to ease public concerns on their health and safety through free webinars, articles and Q&As, with priority on updates related to the pandemic. With that, the public can better understand their health along with when or where to seek help.
(Ed. DoctorxDentist is Singapore’s first free-to-use, online Medical Q&A Concierge, where only certified Medical Specialists registered with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) will be allowed to contribute and address public medical concerns on the platform. The platform claims it complies with the international HONcode standard for trustworthy health information, something awarded to only a select few websites around the world.)