A wise Doctor of Philosophy once said: “You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”
That was Dr Seuss writing in 1986.
I mention it because it links with what’s happening in consumer health and self diagnosis.
A 2010 study showed about a quarter of Australians regularly sought health information online.
Health information sites are all over the web like a rash, from credible Government sites like http://www.healthinsite.gov.au/ to those claiming online diagnosis by doctors, albeit with a disclaimer that will read something like:
“We take no responsibilities for anybody using the site, nor for any information obtained from it, or as a result of using it.”
But, credible or not, a whopping 80 per cent of Australians surveyed by international health insurance giant, Bupa – a Porter Novelli client – admitted to going online for health information, with 47 per cent of these people making a self diagnosis based on what they found online.
Let’s say you have pins and needles. It could be – according to readily available online resources – a vitamin deficiency, sciatica……or multiple sclerosis. Got an earache? Check common cold, an ear infection. Or possibly a brain abscess.
As a former healthcare professional, I have to ask what this might mean for primary healthcare, without even considering what the implications are for the many health sector organisations we work with.
The question for us, as communications specialists, is how to beat the clutter?
Simple, really. What if we turn the tables? Instead of consumers having to find “us”, we go looking for “them”?
Our Australian Dental Association (Victoria) client is stepping into social media through the Caring for your kids’ teeth page; Mercy Health is a relative early adopter and keen experimenter; and we like the work of Cabrini here in Melbourne (that we don’t work on).
The one we aspire our health sector clients to be like remains Mayo Clinic. Check it out.
And if you have a nasty, persistent cough, might be worth a visit to the doctor. It’s probably not tuberculosis.