Why People Who Google and Search Online For Health Information Just Don’t Get It

I find the current state of affairs on the internet to be extremely disappointing and discouraging. Recent research by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF)

“…found that 80% of Internet users look online for health information, making it the third most popular online pursuit among all those tracked by the Pew Internet Project, following email and using a search engine.”

The instance a person goes on the internet they are bombarded by conflict of interest after conflict of interest. Many young people today turn to Google to conduct searches to find information online (of course other search engines such as Bing exist).

The way search works of course is to enter some keyword or keywords you have in your mind about what you want to search for.  Well this is when things start to go astray. There is an entire field called search engine optimization (SEO) which is designed to bring websites to the top of the search keywords for those keywords people are most searching for and what topic the site is about or trying to sell. People will often click through the first few results to see if their questions or what they are searching for can be answered. This is where things really start to go astray. The questions you need to be asking yourself when conducting internet searchers is why is this particular site near the top of the search results and what is the motive of this site? All sites have some motive and are paid for by somebody to be up and running and have content.

Let me focus on the tremendous amount of conflict of interest now of various health websites with particular emphasis on this site teethremoval.com. Now the first conflict of interest to point out is that I run some advertisements on this site. Now I only make a very small amount of money from these advertisements and they do not influence my opinions and content on this site. However, you the user certainly does not appreciate advertisements. However, if you are like most internet users you may feel you have a sense of entitlement to be visiting websites on the internet and receiving information for free. Nothing in life is free! I could very easily switch this website off any at time and require you to pay to access the content. Any other website can do the same thing. Google and other search engines offer free search engines because it makes them money but they are not free there are advertisements on search engines. Once you get to a website you will often encounter advertisements. Even if there are no advertisements the content could still be paid for by someone, you got it!, as an advertisement. You need to keep in mind that everything you could be reading could just be one giant advertisement for something or for some agenda. Further, the site could have biased views based on who sponsors and pays for advertisements that you see on the site.

The next issue people run into when searching for health information is they think that if they read something they can understand it or sort of understand it enough to be able to benefit them in some way. You need to realize the tremendous amount of time and effort that has been involved over the years to learn about health related functions of the human body. This is no small task. You need to remember and keep in mind how grueling it is for someone to become a doctor and be able to practice medicine. This requires education all the way up to high school, then typically 4 years of an undergraduate degree, 4 years of a medical school degree, and additional years as an intern and resident. This requires tremendous amount of time, work, and investment and I assure you that the bulk of the information doctors are learning is not coming from internet websites.

On this website I have put together an elaborate and extensive list of complications that can occur as a result of wisdom teeth extractions. surfing the old school web - Why People Who Google and Search Online For Health Information Just Don't Get ItWhen reading this list of complications and everything else on this site you have to keep in mind the motive of the site! I personally have an axe to grind and am also trying to generate additional revenue for my site through advertisements on this site. Hence one of my motives is financial and for me and most internet website owners the more traffic you have (as in more site visitors) then more money you likely generate. The other motive is I said I have an axe to grind. Now the story on my site is true, I did have all 4 wisdom teeth extracted upon the recommendation of my dentist, oral surgeon, and looked up wisdom teeth online at the time before the surgery by searching via Google a few websites that were near the top of the search results.  None of these parties ever told me that recently the Cochrane Collaboration had found that there is no scientific evidence to support preventative wisdom teeth extractions. Nor was I aware of the all the different types of complications people have suffered from extraction and that it was not standard medical practice to extract wisdom teeth in young healthy adults in the U.K. I thought I was following science that had been verified to best serve the general population and if I suffered some numbness if my nerve I could sue and receive some money as settlement. I was young and had just turned 20 so I did not know a whole lot about the medical industry and was extremely healthy. Certainly dentists and oral surgeons recommending and performing wisdom teeth extractions in young healthy patients in the past have genuinely thought it was in that patient’s best interest which may or may not be true for the aggregate and whole population. Hence I have an axe to grind since I feel I should have been provided more information prior to the surgery and financially compensated for my extremely painful 24/7 headache as a result of the wisdom teeth extractions.

Due to having an axe to grind, being motivated by financial incentives since I am stuck in a capitalistic society, and also being seriously injured and motivated to be healthy, I have to work hard towards making sure I stay on health insurance, can pay the bills, have a roof over my head, clothes, and food on the table.  This has resulted in an extensive review of scientific literature, newspaper articles from the past, legal cases, books, textbooks, and also of course internet searches to find other websites. Again let me make this clear I have looked extensively at scientific literature (journal articles), newspaper articles from the past, legal cases, books, textbooks, and also of course internet searches to find other websites. So my question to you is are you engaging in finding health information from other sources besides just what you find on internet websites? Do you even know how to?

I also have taken and completed extensive schooling and have a masters of science degree in biomedical engineering and a double major in economics and biomedical engineering for my bachelor of science degree. However, I do not currently have a PhD and do not currently have an MD.  I also have visited numerous doctors and have had discussions with them on many topics.

On this website, I  have for example constructed my wisdom teeth complications page in such a manner that I cherry pick case studies and wisdom teeth extraction accounts with a bad outcome. I also have listed many complications that are so rare they may have only occurred a handful of times. In addition, I do not list anything related to how experienced the oral surgeon or dentist is who is performing the extraction, I do not list where they went to school, if they were feeling well that particular day, what country the extractions occurred in, and a whole host of other potential factors that could have contributed to the bad outcome. Further, this page is a deliberate use of fear mongering designed to elicit a response although thankfully I try to not take it to the absolute extreme.

“While using fear in ads has generated some negative reactions by the public, there is evidence to show that ‘shockvertising’ is a highly effective persuasion technique, and over the last several years, advertisers have continued to increase their usage of fear in ads in what has been called a never-ending arms race in the advertising business.”

I personally do NOT like fear mongering, it’s purpose on my site is to help achieve my goals to promote scientific analysis applied to health, understanding that all humans have their flaws, no one can know anywhere close to everything, the quality of our healthcare systems can be improved, get people to think, and other things. The overwhelming majority of people who have wisdom teeth extracted do not appear to have any lasting complications. Yet on this particular complications page I only really list bad outcomes of the surgery. Hence these bad outcomes may be weighed in readers minds much more heavily.

I often read these days about patients who are finding health information online, printing it out, and bringing it with them when they see their doctor. If I was a physician and my patients did this I would be outraged! There are so many factors to consider when evaluating health information that it seems to me that the majority of people are not properly equipped to do so. What gives any one the right to print out something like 40 pages of something they read online about some medical condition and give it to their doctor.  Now certainly you have this right in some countries and can do so but your doctor will not have time to go through everything and fully evaluate all of the potential conflicts of interest. You would be better served to acquiring skills and talents you need if you would like to make sense of this information. This requires extremely hard work, long hours, lots of thinking, and likely taking out a large amount of loans for school if you are young.

At the end of the day those who do not have the necessary educational background may be better served not even turning on their computer. If you are trying to acquire some skills and abilities to better take control of your health you may be better served going to your local library, talking to your librarian, and reading books. Certainly the internet can be useful and helpful for some but it also has the power to be extremely destructive as well. At the end of the day I seriously question why people are using the internet to find health information. They would be much better suited to read medical journal articles, textbooks, books, and get a real education. Then they can do their own serious synthesis and analysis of the information, facts, and data.

Although it may not be clear I actually like dentists and doctors and have a lot of respect for them and what they do. However, everyone patients and doctors included need to understand that we are in this together. It can unfortunately be very difficult for physicians to stay in tune with all the new medical research that comes out every day. So yes doctors can learn from patients but more often than not patients are of course the ones learning from doctors. We are all human after all and all require sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom. We all make mistakes and learn from them. We all strive for something. It’s time to be appreciative for all the hard work dentists and physicians do day in and day out. Unfortunately there are a few unethical ones out their without morals but generally people have good intentions.

So I have to ask you what are you doing looking for health information online and what do you hope to achieve? Why are you even on your computer? Did you ever stop to think that a more technologically advanced society that uses computers more and more may be inadvertently wiring their brains for the worst and destroying jobs for all the other hardworking individuals in society? Unfortunately simply just by me having this  website I may be adversely affecting other people’s lives.

Remember to be thankful for what you have and appreciative of all those other individuals who have created such a wealth of knowledge in this world. However, we need to use this for our advantages and not disadvantages.  Humans need to be forward looking and thinking long term for their species to survive and prosper. Enjoy the health you have today and celebrate and be thankful for being alive. Use your talents and skills to best serve your fellow man and woman.

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/homer_s/2237778477/ and has a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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