Why Doctor Google is not your friend.





Many people have done it. Asked Doctor Google for advice instead of talking to your doctor. Asked a friend about treatment, instead of seeking medical advice. Called your mum, because mum knows best. (Often she does, but not always.)

New research shows that 3 out of 4 of us have searched for our symptoms online, while 1 in 10 have decided not to do anything about an ailment except worry. Whilst this isn’t always bad, 1 in 5 Australians have misdiagnosed themselves after asking around about their symptoms.

This is a Brand Voices post brought to you by Medibank. All opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

As a Medical Director at Medibank, it’s my job to ensure the clinical quality of our 24/7 Health Advice Line, and to make sure our nurses have access to information that is credible and evidence based, so they can provide safe and quality advice to all our callers. It’s a service members with Medibank hospital cover can access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and can assist those that say they don’t have enough time or are sometimes too embarrassed to visit their GP.

When people don’t seek proper medical advice – whether from a GP, our advice line, or another health professional – it can actually be pretty dangerous. The first danger is that the information they get is just plain wrong. The second danger is that a person may delay getting the appropriate treatment, so by the time they do visit a GP their condition has deteriorated. And the third is that people come across information on the Internet that is correct, but they don’t know how it relates to them or their specific circumstances. The classic example is that a headache could be a symptom of a brain tumour. Yes, that’s true. But is your headache a symptom of a brain tumour? That’s a completely different question.

Georgia Karabatsos, Medical Director at Medibank

On the hotline we deal with a whole range of symptoms and health related questions. Some are very, very serious – where people have been reluctant to call an ambulance, because they’re not sure if it’s necessary. Everything from people experiencing chest pain, to people having strokes. At the other end of spectrum we have people calling us who are experiencing symptoms that might on the surface seem trivial, but at the time it’s very important to them, and it is okay to call and get advice.

Mums calling with questions about their children are a large proportion of our callers. If you’ve been a mum, you’ll know that feeling of thinking that something is wrong but not knowing what to do next. We can help mothers figure that out by advising them when they need to see a doctor and giving some advice on how to manage in the meantime.

Other groups that find the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line particularly helpful include young people calling who may be embarrassed to talk to their GP face-to-face. Again we can assure them that if they need to be seen by a GP it’s okay and nothing to be ashamed about. Seniors, who might have trouble getting out to see their GP or sometimes don’t want to bother their family or doctor, can call from their home and ask for advice from a trusted nurse . People who perhaps live remotely or away from major city centres also rely on the service. If you live two hours drive from the closest doctor, you may want to check that you really need to go to the doctor before you set off. The nurse can provide expert advice and let them know what course of action is best for their current symptom.


This coming week, from the 26th to the 31st of August, is ‘Talk to An Expert Week’ – and Medibank is encouraging those of us who might usually just search for our symptoms online and try to self-diagnose, to seek out the advice of an expert. Use it as a friendly reminder to get something that you’ve been putting off checked out , or even as an incentive to visit your GP for a standard check-up.

It’s about talking to an expert, making sure the advice you’re getting is correct, and not being embarrassed to speak to a health professional. Doctors and nurses have seen it all. And in the case of our 24/7 Health Advice Line, they’ve heard it all. So don’t hold back!

As part of Mi Health, members with Medibank hospital cover can call a Medibank nurse with any health questions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Medibank nurses complement the care given by GPs and other health professionals so consumers can trust they’ll deliver sound advice, and answer most questions.

If Medibank nurses think a GP should be seen, they can use their clinical knowledge to call the preferred GP clinic, explain the condition to assist getting you an appointment.

For more information about Talking to an Expert, visit Medibank’s website here.

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