IDIOT syndrome is when people blindly trust all the medical information available online and stop their treatment abruptly without consulting their doctor.
Recently, I came across the term IDIOT (Internet Derived Information Obstruction Treatment) syndrome, which is medically called cyberchondria, where a person blindly trusts the information provided on the internet and stops treatment. The internet offers a lot of information that is good and helps increase awareness, but at what cost? Even we doctors search for stuff that we do not know on the internet, but we know where to look for answers.
These days the internet is replacing the traditional concept of a family doctor. Many people, including my friends and patients, search the web and then consult. This is not helpful as your family doctor knows you personally and socially and can help you make management decisions considering all aspects of your illness, desired treatment, and logistics or finances. The latter aspect is something we doctors usually do not take into consideration. It is easy for us to advise treatment for a disease, but whether the patient would be able to take that treatment distinguishes a good doctor from an average one.
I realized this the hard way when two patients of mine did not receive treatment from me, one because of parking issues, and the second one felt that waiting time was too much. How often we forget things that are not important medically are very important to the patients in deciding their treatment. The internet is that extramarital affair in the sacred doctor-patient relationship, which provides information that we doctors are sometimes unable to. This arises because patients lose faith in the doctors, and then they resort to seeking help from the internet. Now the trend is patients first read up on the web and then seek consultation, and they will cross-verify the information.
I would like to describe an instance where the internet has created obstacles. This patient had cancer in the jaw, which spread to the neck. The cancer was operated on, and the disease was removed. However, to minimize the chances of recurrence, it required radiation therapy. When I explained the same to the patient and his well-educated family, they were skeptical because of the risks of cancer caused by radiation. Despite describing the probability and how benefits outweigh this minute risk, they still were in doubt and denied treatment. Later they returned with recurrence, and I could not do much for them. In retrospect, I ask myself whether I could have done anything differently?
Also, during the beginning of the pandemic, there was numerous information on COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 19) circulating on the internet and social media. With the condition being a new challenge to the global healthcare experts and officials in combating and controlling it, the fake information confused the panicked population and made them carry out irrelevant things in the name of COVID home remedy, adding fuel to the fire.
The internet is flooded with good and bad. It is in the hands of the people which one to look, stick, and follow.
I am not of the opinion to not use the internet; instead, one should use it. Like all other practices, malpractice exists in healthcare as well. However, you must ask your doctor about the website to read up and get more aware. These days I tell my patients about websites that offer good, resourceful, and authentic information. Also, remember one general principle, all patients are different, so the information provided can guide, but the management can vary from patient to patient. It is crucial to rebuild that faith in your doctors. I am not saying that doctors are God, and they can never be, but they are professionals equipped with the expertise to manage patients' sufferings.
Like every other service, this comes at a cost as well. When we go out for a movie in a multiplex, the cost is more than when we watch the movie in an ordinary theater. Still, we opt to watch the movie in the multiplex for the better quality of service, and we do not complain that cold drinks are offered at double the price. Similarly, there is a cost for the services provided, and it varies depending upon the place. However, to minimize, there are various charitable schemes available that one should avail. Also, one should get insured for their health, and it is sad that while motor insurance is made mandatory in parts of the world, health insurance is ignored. My basic intention behind this article is to bridge the gap between doctors and patients. Use your doctor as the first resort and not the last.
Not all the information related to health and wellness on the internet is legit or fake. And this is the same with information on every other topic on the internet. Some sites publish fake health content just to gain popularity, advertisements, and ratings. People should keep an eye on such sites that threaten their readers and increase the hype. Such sites should be ignored. There are several legitimate websites that provide crisp and genuine basic medical information, which eventually guides their readers to seek professional medical help. And there are many such examples wherein readers have come out of their ignorant attitude towards their health condition due to such medical content on the internet. This has greatly contributed to preventing health complications.
Every coin has two sides. Which side the person looks on ultimately matters. And in the case of IDIOT syndrome, more and more public awareness on what, where, and how to look for a condition and its solution on the internet is needed.
Last reviewed at:
17 Jan 2022 - 4 min read
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