Dr. Google may cause more harm than good, study finds

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Research by OnePoll on behalf of LetsGetChecked reveals the problems with diagnosing your illness online.(Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash)

Two in five Americans have falsely convinced themselves they have a serious disease, after turning to “Dr. Google” — according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 Americans found that 43 percent have looked their symptoms up online and ended up believing they had a much more serious illness than in actuality.

Sixty-five percent of respondents have used the internet to self-diagnose themselves, but the results show typing your symptoms into the search bar might do more harm than good.

Instead of alleviating concerns, 74 percent of those who have self-diagnosed online say searching for their symptoms made them worry MORE about their health.

That may be due to the answers given by Dr. Google, as the internet’s medical advice was found by respondents to be reliable less than 40 percent of the time.

Commissioned by LetsGetChecked and conducted by OnePoll, the survey found that searching the web isn’t everyone’s first choice for a diagnosis — when respondents feel ill, half (51 percent) say they turn first to a health care professional.

At the same time, a quarter of those surveyed (26 percent) don’t have a primary care physician and six in 10 actively avoid visiting the doctor.

This avoidance is due in part to the cost of medical care (47 percent), doctor(s) not believing them when they talk about symptoms (37 percent) and not having time to go to an appointment (37 percent).

But the survey also found a variety of factors that would encourage respondents to see a professional — including having results explained in a way that makes sense (47 percent), less expensive care (46 percent) and if it better fit into their schedule (43 percent).

That’s in addition to having the ability to choose which parts of their health they can test (41 percent) and taking tests in their own home (38 percent).

“This survey shows us that a significant number of people are living with on-going, negative day-to-day symptoms that they either don’t understand or misdiagnose,” said Robert Mordkin, Medical Director of LetsGetChecked. “Many of these symptoms can be associated with thyroid issues.”

Dr. Mordkin added, “While educating yourself can be a good thing, it is important to have objective testing. One way to do this is with home health testing, which enables better convenience, flexibility and peace of mind. LetsGetChecked hopes to alleviate the public struggle with diagnosis by including two types of thyroid tests as part of their offering.”

In advance of Thyroid Awareness Month, the survey looked to see how knowledgeable respondents were about the human body through a series of multiple choice questions.
Sixty-eight percent believed they were knowledgeable about the body — but that wasn’t necessarily backed up by the results.

When asked where the thyroid was located, only 45 percent answered correctly (the base of the neck, along the windpipe). The most popular incorrect answer? Behind the ribs and underneath the heart, with 11 percent.

Twenty-two percent mistakenly believed the thyroid was part of the respiratory system, instead of the endocrine system (37 percent answered correctly).

The piece of information respondents were most likely to know about the thyroid was its function, but even then, less than half (46 percent) were aware that the thyroid produces and stores a variety of hormones.

“The fact that over half of U.S. adults turn to Google to learn more about their symptoms is unsettling. The fact that it can take weeks or months to see a doctor highlights the need for better solutions to testing, managing and knowing your health,” concluded Dr. Mordkin of LetsGetChecked. “At home health testing empowers people to test their health on their schedule and continuously receive clinical support, providing a more sound solution than relying on Dr. Google for all of the answers.”


  • Having results explained in a way that makes sense 47 percent
  • Less expensive care 46 percent
  • If it better fit into their schedule 43 percent
  • The ability to choose which parts of their health they can test 41 percent
  • Taking tests in their own home 38 percent
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  • True or false? Weight gain is a symptom of hypo-thyroidism.
  • The thyroid is located: A. Behind the ribs, underneath the heart B. In the lower back, between the kidneys C. The base of the neck, along the windpipe
  • True or false? Fatigue can be a symptom of both hypo- and hyper-thyroidism.
  • The thyroid is part of the: A. Respiratory system B. Digestive system C. Endocrine system
  • True or false? The thyroid produces and stores a variety of hormones.

Answers: 1. True; 2. C; 3. True; 4. B; 5. True

>> Download the video and infographic for this research story <<

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