Is it saving pennies or the current epidemic that is driving more Kiwis online to diagnose their illness?
Well over a third of those surveyed in the 2009 NetGuide Telecom Broadband survey had sought medical advice from the array of internet-based resources available today rather than visiting their GP.
A quick search on Yahoo!Xtra for ‘swine flu symptoms’ reveals 22 million possible results, 83 million for ‘how to treat a cold’ and more than 69 million for ‘how to tell if your child is sick’. There are also a number of websites providing medical advice including answers.com, diagnoseme.com and healthline.com.
New Zealand Medical Association Chairman Dr Peter Foley warns that there is no substitute for a face to face consultation with your doctor for diagnoses.
“People risk being misinformed if they rely solely on the internet. Many illnesses can have similar symptoms and the internet can’t provide you with a fully informed diagnosis or be relied on to provide factual and balanced information,” says Dr Foley.
Although it is best to leave diagnosis to a professional, the internet also provides many benefits for sufferers and their families to share their experiences through online communities, sometimes finding support from around the world.
“It is important that there is some balance between people seeking basic information for themselves with the role experts play in sorting the complexity of symptoms and expectations in our modern health systems.
“People will benefit from actually consulting with a doctor who will be able to provide you with an accurate and comprehensive assessment, followed by the appropriate treatment," says Dr Foley.
Telecom's Director of Home services, Ralph Brayham, says the NetGuide Broadband Survey is a useful way to track the fast changing internet habits of Kiwis.
“While the quantity and variety of information available on the internet is fantastic, as in all good things moderation and balance are important.”
Telecom and NetGuide carried out the survey about what New Zealanders do online earlier this year. Questions ranged from asking if respondents know someone who is married to someone they met online, to whether they have been a victim of an internet scam. Approximately 1,600 people took part in the survey.
Further survey results will be printed in upcoming editions of NetGuide.