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Graihagh Jackson

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Should we be self-diagnosing via the internet? Is democratised medicine the future?

Edward Snowden's revelations have shaken our faith in online privacy. But can we trust Google with our health?

The digital era is going to bring about some phenomenal advances in healthcare but there are going to be massive setbacks too - what about hacking of personal medical devices for instance? Or the problems of using the internet for self-diagnosis? I think that the idea that technology can replace doctor or simulate a genuine doctor-patient relationship is absurd. This is something that is talked about very eloquently in the below debate by a psychiatrist called Mark Salter.


What do you think? Will technology every bypass the need to see a physician? Is the internet the future of medicine and is this a good thing? Can we trust the internet for this purpose?

I think not.


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  • Nov 10 2013: To diagnose a psychological problem is probably possible by online interaction. But for diagnosing other physiological disease it is way out of proportion for the patient. First, the doctor has to LOOK and listen to the patient's symptom and other SIGNS of the disease conditions. Then s/he would take a series of tests; some are lab tests, but also some visual or stethoscope tests. Even though there have been some criticism of too much lab tests by the physicians, but still I don't see there will be more effective ways to optimize the number of tests by online diagnoses. More importantly, there are more and more tests that require additional experts to examine the results to confirm what is the root problem for the disease. For many diseases, they need even a conference of physicians to agree on the proper diagnosis. So it would be very difficult to do in online diagnosis. And, on average, it probably would not even be more economically justified either. Furthermore, if you have some kind of POTENTIALLY SERIOUS CONDITIONS, would you like to gamble you life or permanent disability by the so-called online self-diagnosis?
    The privacy problem is secondary to the risk of wrong diagnoses (even though it's possible by physician-made decisions too, but nobody is perfect anyway) which is more likely made by online diagnosis. For the medical data privacy question, I don't think that there is any protection in patient privacy for any country with government managed health insurance anyway. In the U. S., we already have possible data leaks in the health care online enrollment web page even before the program gets started.

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