IDIOT (internet-derived information obstructing treatment) syndrome is one of the biggest challenges that has-been raised from our digital dependency. People suffering from IDIOT syndrome google out their symptoms, self diagnose and start treatment without consulting a doctor or some people google out the medicines prescribed by doctors and start checking their uses and side effects and then discontinue the treatment without realising that a single medicine has numerous uses and doctor knows best what a patient needs. World Health Organisation (WHO) calls this situation an “infodemic (excessive availability of both correct and misleading health-related information affecting people’s ability to make the right healthcare decision).
According to doctors, there is now a shift from ignorance affecting treatment-seeking to excessive information affecting treatment-seeking. People have become Google doctors. They blindly trust medical information available on the internet as they lack the skill to distinguish scientific facts from myths. Many people develop extreme health anxiety after searching their symptoms on the internet where even a minor itching is shown to be linked to skin cancer; thus fuelling the apprehensions or sometimes it goes the other way around; we undermine the seriousness of the health issue because somewhere on google we read it’s a common issue that goes away on its own and thus we take it for granted.
IDIOT syndrome or cyberchondria affects educated people more as they are more digitally dependent. Many obsessed and slim people start looking for medicines and supplements available to serve their purpose or many youngsters with skin-related issues like pimples, pigmentation and facial hair start taking ointments and drugs after learning about them online. They get lured by the lofty claims of marketers and end up falling victim to many secondary complications. For instance, in our neighbourhood a 29-year-old female died due to kidney failure; which occurred due to the side effects of a supplement that she bought online to gain weight. Likewise, some infertile couples buy medicines and supplements online just because they read a few positive reviews about them.
Our digital dependency in general and IDIOT syndrome, in particular, is fuelling the online marketing of counterfeit drugs. We take online buying of medicines like buying other merchandise online. We don’t realise that if we buy a substandard bag or dress it will just cost us money but if we take counterfeit drugs it may put our life at stake. We get tempted by the online heavy discounts on medicines and other healthcare gadgets like digital Bp apparatus and glucometers. It is high time that we become mindful of the risks involved in being a Google doctor. We should rely on credible medical professionals only. We should do an intensive survey of the e-commerce site before buying medicines online. We should use our wit not to get lured by the heavy discount offers.
Doctors and medical associations should disseminate information among the public regarding authentic and fake healthcare portals. We should get our digital health care devices like glucometers etc checked by professionals before blindly using them as one wrong reading is enough to put a patient’s life at stake. Authorities should make the public aware of proxy indicators that can help them in making the right decision; for e.g. briefing the public about not relying on sites offering medicines without prescriptions. Above all stringent legislation and its thorough implementation should be ensured. Adherence to Drug control laws and policies should be sought from e marketers too.