11:00 pm, Indoor Night: Using your smartphone light, browse Google results from various medical sites, trying to find out if the pain you feel is a sign of the flu or a brain tumor. You are not alone.
According to the Digital Report 2022 study conducted by the international agency We Are Social and the Hootsuite platform, 26% of Internet users, all ages and countries together, would look for their symptoms online every week. A figure that rises to just over 30% among women between 25 and 44 years old.
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If France is quite far in the ranking of countries that look for their symptoms online most each week (just 14% nationwide), the phenomenon is regularly observed by health professionals. ” In 30 years, I’ve seen the Larousse company go online. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s getting easier says Dr. Jean-Christophe Nogrette, GP and Deputy General Secretary of the General Practitioners Union. According to him, what is recent is the phenomenon of climbing that allows the internet: a headache that in a few clicks becomes a tumor. In 2019, the start-up 360 Medics, a collaborative medical platform for health professionals, conducted a survey of 300 caregivers, showing that 83% of them have already received consultations from patients up to and all his diagnosis.
For some patients who are already sensitive to hypochondria, online searches become cyberchondria, an acronym that points to the tendency to look for any information about a symptom, to the point of being carried away by a wave of information that would point to existence. supposedly serious imaginary diseases. ” In the office, people come to see us with what I call “My Google Friend,” which is not really anyone’s friend. With self-diagnosis, patients sometimes buy medication and do anything without a professional diagnosis Corinne Le Sauder, general practitioner and president of the French Federation of Physicians, laments. A phenomenon that affects even more specialized medicine, from pediatrics to gynecology, to dermatology. According to Corinne Le Sauder, this cyberchondria is just an illustration of the widespread anxiety in our society.
A hypochondria facilitated by a desire for immediacy
In the age of the Internet, finding and finding information is child’s play. A desire for immediacy that serves medicine, for Corinne Le Sauder: ” people want to know everything very quickly, and they want to project themselves into the future. For hypochondriacs, it is easier to do an internet search than to call a doctor “Especially because technological tools have made us more autonomous in the face of a large number of problems, saving time and the proliferation of information.
The recent health crisis has not improved the situation: Corinne Le Sauder is even talking about a situation. ” deplorable “or” everyone thought they were experts “.” Covid increased our desire to go and see our symptoms. People are still scared, there were problems with masks, then vaccines … she lists. Jean-Christophe Nogrette has seen the explosion of the search for scientific information on very specific topics, such as vaccination. ” Some people do not have the scientific training to read all this information add.
Another factor in our digital hypochondria lies in the development and democratization of telemedicine: according to the We Are Social and Hootsuite report, Doctolib is the 20th most visited website in France in 2021, and the 5th most downloaded application on 2021, well ahead of Snapchat or Facebook. Video dating can be helpful for minor injuries, but for Corinne Le Sauder, it puts patients in front of caregivers. ” who do not know the treatments or the history, who cannot take an exam “.
The emergence of telemedicine echoes a crisis in the health system in France, according to Corinne Le Sauder, who denounces a “ skill transfer »Of overflowing health professionals and less and less. ” People think that with the internet they are little doctors. We see it with some alternative medicine. Everyone can know everything, driven by fear she analyzes. In 2020, in a study published in the Australian Medical Journal, researchers at Edith Cowan University in Australia analyzed the diagnoses offered online at various medical sites: only 36% of them were correct. Results that show the importance of the relationship between patients and doctors. ” This confidence is essential, it is the role of the doctor to reassure insists Corinne Le Sauder.
Monitoring your health, but at what price?
The emergence of connected devices, from watches to scales, is a testament to this enthusiasm for monitoring our health. Still according to the We Are Social Digital Report 2022, more than 20% of French people wear a watch or bracelet connected. For Vincent Vercamer, Head of Public Affairs and Market Access, Project Manager “Mon Espace Santé” and Lise Carrillo, UX researcher with Withings, “ the growing pressure of society to have a healthy lifestyle may explain the enthusiasm of the general public to equip themselves with these devices. Today we can no longer pretend not to know the risky behaviors and their consequences. Equipping them with devices that help them understand their health will allow users to be on the path to a healthier lifestyle.
” The user is self-employed, can have results in real time without systematically requesting an appointment with a doctor or a laboratory to obtain objective information about their health status through the use of these devices. They say Vincent Vercamer and Lise Carrillo. However, for them, connected objects are just a reflection of pre-existing anxieties between certain users. ” For more anxious personalities, connected objects may be part of an existing trend to monitor their health very closely. That is why at Withings we are very careful not to encourage this type of behavior by working on the discourse that accompanies the restitution of measures. they say.
The proliferation of more or less credible medical sites makes it difficult to find reliable information about our health. Thus, looking for a symptom can make it possible to go from everything to nothing. Corinne Le Sauder recommends that these sites specify that they are not doctors and are based more on the hierarchy of symptoms. With that in mind, the Withings Connected Healthcare Brand team says: ” What matters most is not so much the amount of data, but how the user receives it “Vincent Vercamer and Lise Carrillo explain that the presentation of data from their devices is essential, not to drown the user in raw data but to” give him understandable tools from which he can make decisions that are beneficial to his health “.
Knowledge is power
But is it so bad to look for symptoms on the internet? According to a study published in March 2021 in the medical journal JAMA Network and conducted by researchers at Harvard University, looking for your symptoms online would not be so dangerous … even useful. The study thus shows a (weak) improvement in the accuracy of the diagnosis after investigating its symptoms on the Internet, from 49.8% before to 54% after. For people who have had bad experiences with caregivers, looking for their symptoms online would help them calm down and anticipate appointments.
Especially because the different health data can make correlations, and push patients to go to the doctor. ” Digital technology offers new avenues of access to information, tools and health professionals, which allows everyone to be much more active in managing their health, and for many users this means a sense of serenity. , confidence and evolution towards a better way of life. develops the Withings team. The connected object company therefore takes the example of sleep, a data that is difficult to analyze and, nevertheless, one of the most consulted: according to Withings, one in two users will consult their sleep data more than once a week.
For Jean-Christophe Nogrette, this desire to understand his symptoms is perfectly legitimate. “Either they do a proper analysis and the diagnosis is likely, or they go into the rubble, and I have to get them back to the ground,” he explains, before recalling that it is a phenomenon. relatively limited in their patients. ” The more appropriate a subject is, even if it is wrong, the more it progresses in general knowledge adds the doctor. Advancing the general knowledge of patients will facilitate their task of explaining certain diseases. ” Digital also has a drawback, which goes far beyond the field of health, giving daily visibility on elements that were previously managed by professionals. remember Vincent Vercamer and Lise Carrillo of Withings. A way to get to know each other better … if our research is followed by appointments with health professionals.