Virtual Common Sense

Summer 2000 CSANews Issue 35  |  Posted date : Mar 05, 2007.Back to list

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt that something just wasn't on the level? Sometimes you can't put your finger on it...but you know. Call it bad vibes, intuition, your sixth sense or whatever you like, your built-in early warning system goes off. Over years of dealing with people we all develop a built-in radar system to help us navigate through the sea of people out there who try to mislead us. Most of the time it works quite well. We all hear cases of people falling victim to con artists, but they are statistically pretty rare because most of us can sense when something just doesn't add up.

This works well where you have the opportunity to meet and speak with a person, but with so much information and contact being made between people online, the opportunities to tell the good from the bad are limited. The problem with the Internet is that anyone with a few bucks can make a pretty cool and official-looking site. I am not really that concerned with people who create fictitious sites in order to trick you into buying non-existent products, as most credit card companies and some Internet service providers will reimburse you for credit card fraud that resulted from an Internet transaction.

I am mainly concerned with Internet users obtaining and incorrectly applying information, particularly with respect to health issues. There are certainly a number of very good health-care related sites available. In the United States, www.Intelihealth.com and www.Mayohealth.org are very good, and in Canada, www.Canadianhealthnetwork.com and Health Canada Online www.hc-sc.gc.ca are very useful and provide a wealth of information. There are also many sites that act as portals, providing links to many other relevant sites. Good examples of these are www.medexplorer.com or www.healthfinder.gov.

All of these sites provide good, helpful information, but under no circumstances are they to be taken as a substitute for medical advice. Sometimes the key to obtaining good medical advice from your family doctor is knowing which questions to ask. Researching a particular illness or symptom online is very useful in this regard. As we get older it is sometimes difficult to associate a particular symptom with an illness. You may have several symptomatic situations but fail to mention them all to your practitioner, focusing only on the primary situation. Reviewing your condition online will help you know which symptoms relate to one another and will enable you to give your doctor a more accurate description of your situation.

Remember, the Internet can be an important tool that can complement the relationship between patient and doctor, but it is not a substitute.