Topol says the writing is on the wall. People are more likely to consult google than make an appointment with a doctor. However that assumes that the human response to a threat, physical or psychological is logical. There is seldom logic in much human behaviour. The myriad of factors that impact on a person’s decision to consult a doctor were explored by Campbell and Roland in 1996
Only one in 37 new symptoms were reported to a general practitioner…
A key reason why someone might seek medical advice is that they consider themselves susceptible to disease. However for that to be the case they have to understand how their body functions. Recent research suggests that this is not reliable. Weinman et al demonstrated in a survey of the general public that while most people knew the location of the human intestines, less than half could locate the liver, less than a third could place the kidneys and astonishingly just over one in four could locate the lungs. If knowledge of anatomy is limited than knowledge of pathophysiology is even more problematic. This was demonstrated in a study of perspectives on a child with symptoms of asthma from mothers of different ethnic backgrounds in London.
Some mothers mentioned avoiding certain foods; e.g. banana since it ‘contains a liquid that irritates the throat’, and cold milk or ice cream..Some mothers said they would utilise their normal strategy of what they do when their child is unwell with respiratory difficulties (e.g. menthol rubs, types of foods). In two sessions discussion involved remedies e.g. honey and lemon tea or remedies such as ‘bush tea’…Only one mother said she would find out what was wrong before trying a remedy. Most would first seek advice from their own family, friends and medical books. Cane et al.
In a recent study (2014) by Quaife and colleagues people were asked about their help seeking behaviours in relation to symptoms that may indicate a cancer diagnosis including a persistent cough, rectal bleeding and breast changes.
Recognition tended to be lower for men, older people, and those from ethnic minority and less-educated groups. These effects were significant for all three warning signs (P < 0.05).
This indicates that it may be some time before we can conclude that people will be safely self diagnosing.
Picture by Wellcome images