Afraid to See Your Doctor? Here Are Ways to Help You Get More Credible Medical Advice Online

Medical advice online

It's best to go to the doctor when you have a health concern, but you most likely would rather look up your symptoms online and go with whatever information you find. This can be dangerous or misleading. But if you're really set on not seeing the doctor, here are a few ways to get better unofficial medical advice online.

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Did you know that almost 30 percent of Americans are scared to see the doctor? Even worse, the United States Census Bureau found that Americans are seeing the doctor less frequently. In fact, 37 percent of Americans between 18 to 24 years old did not see a doctor for a whole year. But you're supposed to get your physical every year right? What's worse? Less than 40 percent of uninsured Americans get medical help, even if their health is poor. Even though free medical services are available, only 20 percent of these uninsured citizens sought them.

If you haven't been to the doctor or would rather look up your symptoms online, you're not alone. Although it's not advised, it's better to search correctly for medical information online than not getting any medical help at all – and here are a few ways to help you get better medical guidance online:

Only trust medically reviewed information
. Health information you find that's reviewed and approved by doctors is most probably 100 percent accurate. How do you know if information is reviewed by health professionals? Look for captions near the title of the article, by the author's byline, or at the end of the article that say the article has been reviewed or approved by a health professional. The caption should be specific, like “This article has been reviewed by Dr. John Doe,” and not something generic like, “This article has been reviewed by doctors.” Generic captions are more likely to be false because you can't backtrack the doctor who approved the article – and that may be the website's intention because the article may not have been reviewed by a doctor at all! It's even better if the article itself is written by a physician. Also, websites, like WebMD and EMaxHealth, that are known to have teams of doctors and health professionals frequently writing for it are more trustworthy than a random website that suddenly has an article purportedly written by a physician.

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.EDU and .GOV sites. Even if an article isn't written or reviewed by a medical professional, its information is trustworthy if it's on a .EDU or .GOV site. Usually only credentialed authors can publish anything on these kinds of sites. Universities and colleges are unlikely to publish false or misleading information because their reputation is on the line. It's even harder to publish information on .GOV sites, and you should trust information on health government agencies' websites like the CDC's, NIH's, and FDA's.

Ask a doctor online. There are services on the internet that allow you to ask medical questions to doctors. Although there are free services with doctors who answer your questions, the most trustworthy services are paid for. With free services, doctors will most likely give you generic answers in order to avoid establishing a doctor-patient relationship, which would make them liable for the advice they give. With paid services, like Doctor Spring, doctors are more apt to give you specific medical advice tailored to your condition because by paying you establish a doctor-patient relationship. The good news is, some of these services are anonymous, which means you can ask questions you weren't comfortable with asking your primary care physician. If you're worried about cost, asking a question on these paid services is probably a fraction of the cost of a doctor's appointment.

Even if you find the most trustworthy medical information online, it still might not be good medical advice! Many symptoms are the same for many diseases. Your slight cough could either be a normal cold or a sign of an impending heart attack. That's why it's best to see your doctor – because he's trained to study you holistically and determine what you really have and what you don't. If money is an issue, be proactive and find free medical services available to you in your area.

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