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A search engine is not a doctor

A search engine is not a doctor

Many people are avoiding seeking medical care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests through the end of June 2020, an estimated 41% of American adults postponed or did not seek medical care due to pandemic worries.

This doesn’t mean people don’t have health issues or need information on medical conditions they are concerned about.

Most people reach out to good old Dr. Google when they have a question, or perhaps their friends and family on social media. Lots of internet users search health topics, which seems harmless.

Did you look up a headache and find out it could be cancer?

There’s a new medical term that has been created by these searches called cyberchondria, which researchers define as the negative emotional effects such as anxiety that come from looking up a health condition. Worse yet, 70% of health-related websites included poor quality data that may be misleading or difficult to interpret.

Is social media any better?

No. Multiple studies have found that despite the trust you place in your social circle, the most common shared health information on Facebook is misinformation. The Journal of Medical Internet Research reported 42% have stopped a medication without consulting the prescribing provider due to what people have said on social media. And more concerning, less than half check a health claim made on social media, but just take it at face value.

Should you ask your family and friends for advice on symptoms and health information?

Yes, it’s human nature to be curious, and our social circle includes the people we trust. We can get emotional support from our friends, family and perhaps others with similar conditions that can be very beneficial. I recommend when you do receive health advice from your friends and family, remember they may not be medical experts. If you’re concerned about a health condition, contact your primary care physician for further evaluation.

How can I seek care today amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?

Remember you can seek care in person or online. The Advocate Aurora Health Safe Care Promise provides additional measures such as virtual check-in, screening, masking, social distancing and enhanced cleaning to protect you and our team members.

Virtual visits are also available.  You can often schedule video visits with your family’s primary care providers, specialists and other care team members. Learn more at

Don’t further delay care and reach out to your physician today for your health and wellbeing.

Bridget Bolterstein, is a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Family Medicine at Aurora Saint Luke’s South Shore Medical Center.  

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About the Author

Bridget Bolterstein
Bridget Bolterstein

Bridget Bolterstein, is a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Family Medicine at Aurora Saint Luke’s South Shore Medical Center.