WesTex Wednesday:use online symptom searches with caution

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ODESSA, Texas (Big 2/Fox 24) – When we don’t feel well,  sometimes our first reaction is to check the internet to figure out what’s wrong.   Doctor Terry Beck from WesTex Urgent Care says he sees a lot of patients who try to look up what their symptoms could mean. The doctor says when it’s used appropriately, an online search can be beneficial. 

” I would rather have an informed patient than an uninformed patient, first off. I have no problem with someone who tries to look up their symptoms on the computer, Google or whatever the other search engines may be to try to help figure out what’s going on. But at the same time, you have to be really careful–when a patient looks at that information, you have to be really careful how you interpret it,” says Dr. Terry Beck.  

It can be easy to jump to conclusions-or to think that symptoms may point to a serious problem. Contact your primary care doctor, or use free local resources to help determine what the next step should be. 

” If you’re not sure, talk to a medical provider. I know our local hospital here in Midland, has a nurse hotline that you can call and explain to them, and it’s free-it’s no charge. It’s 6-8 NURSE, and if you can explain to them the symptoms that you’re having, and they can help triage you to say, ‘You know what, it’s probably nothing you can wait to see your doctor in a day or two–you need to go to the ER now, or you can wait to see someone  first thing in the morning,’  that type of thing.”  

Doctor Beck says if you’re going to look up medical information, he recommends Medscape or Web MD. But keep in mind that a medical professional with a degree has the knowledge and experience that is helpful. A doctor can also ask questions to understand what a patient says.

 “I think communication is the key. As medical providers, it is our job is to talk to the patient, get a feel for what’s going on try and try to put ourselves in their shoes– so we can help figure out what’s going on with them. “

Doctor Beck says it’s critical that both the patient and the medical professional think through the situation. The doctor says patients shouldn’t jump to conclusions or panic when they look up symptoms online. Medical professionals should know a patient’s symptoms, but they should also go through a patient’s history and do diagnostic tests. 

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