Wellness Matters: Paging Dr. Google

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The following weekly column is written and sponsored by Virginia Hospital Center, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one of America’s 100 Top Hospitals for the third year in a row.

You forgot to get a flu shot. Now your headache won’t go away and your body aches are getting worse. Is it the flu? You reach for your smart phone and type in your symptoms. Several web sites suggest a diagnosis and even recommend products to help you feel better. Should you even bother to make a doctor’s appointment?

With so much information at our fingertips, it’s tempting to turn to “Dr. Google” for medical advice. But the web is no substitute for actual, in-person interaction with a trained clinician.

“We see patients every day who check with Dr. Google before seeking help from us,” says Felix Ma, MD, Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care. “It’s good that people are more engaged in the management of their health. However, there may be symptoms they don’t recognize or underlying causes that affect their overall health. The internet can be a helpful tool to gain initial insights, but it can’t see you, talk to you, or hear all your concerns for a complete picture of your health. At present, a visit to your healthcare provider is essential to determine what really ails you.”

Here are just a few reasons to pick up the phone and make an appointment with your physician or visit the Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care:

  • Complete History and Physical. A look back at your previous health can shed light on current issues. Additionally, you may have multiple concerns, which can make it challenging to focus the encounter without losing important information. The key to an accurate diagnosis lies within the history, which in turn determines the type of physical exam performed, which in turn identifies the problem.
  • The Mind-Body Connection. Are you stressed or tired? Why? What other factors should be considered before a diagnosis is made? A trained clinician pays attention to the vital connection between mind and body.
  • Individualized Care. Health-related web sites offer a lot of information, but not all of it pertains to you. Every person is unique and what works for one blogger won’t necessarily work for you. Only a properly trained medical professional can evaluate your situation and advise the best course of treatment tailored to your individual health.
  • A Thorough Assessment. Checking your blood pressure or listening to your lungs is part of a thorough assessment and adds to your total health picture. There is value to being informed, so share your research, but remember that it takes time, data, expertise and experience to make an accurate diagnosis and recommend a safe remedy.

Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care
601 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington, VA

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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