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Nigerians and Cyber-Medicine: The Internet, Our Doctor

The Internet has transformed the way ordinary people conduct their everyday businesses. People can bank, pay bills, manage investments, order various products, and obtain information on an infinite number of topics online. It is therefore not unexpected that such an innovation would become a vehicle for the layperson to educate themselves concerning their health.

With the growth of the information on the web goes the growth of self-acclaimed physicians. The number of people who go to consult their ‘physical’ physicians have reduced tremendously as most believe that they can now diagnose themselves of any illness and recommend prescription with the vast information found online.

A lot of Nigerians now self-medicate as they make use of the internet to find out information on treatments. They only involve medical personnel when it is life threatening. They go as far as buying medicines online. A lot of people do not like the hospitals because of the stress they encounter before receiving medical consultation.

While this is prevalent, on the other hand, many patients would go to the hospital only after surfing the internet about possible conditions or illnesses so that they now discuss their ‘findings’ with the healthcare professional. They come armed with their own presumed diagnosis. Beforehand, matters relating to health and health matters were considered the forte of those in the medical profession.

Some people would consult their internet to know more about the disease and the prescription given by their doctor. Knowing about what they are asked to ingest give them a reassured confidence of their health status.

Seeking Information online is not totally wrong, however, it can lead to misapprehension and confusion and not to mention anxiety. Imagine an individual who has a slight headache and after consultation from the internet diagnoses himself of malaria, goes further to treat himself of ‘malaria’ with the drugs he bought online and without a proper malaria test. He is further inflicting himself with his puffed up information. Even if he goes to the hospital, he gives answers relating to the symptoms he has memorized, subconsciously twisting his health status. The doctor who is not a magician or a brain reader would treat him according to the information collated by him. If the outcome becomes otherwise, many would blame the doctor for misdiagnosis which was not his fault.

This is so because while a number of the medical information published online are reliable information produced by universities and teaching hospitals many who are not in the medical field may not be able to understand the language of medicine even if the information is of high quality. Who knows how to read Doctor’s handwriting in the first place? This makes it extremely difficult to distinguish likely from unlikely causes for their symptoms.

Doctors are now on the social media bandwagon team, for instance, DoctorsHub. You now have easy access to your doctor’s opinion without face to face consultation. Hence, you can reduce the rate of rushing in and out of the hospital to receive P500. Doctors on the other hand, are very much aware of the fact that patients are no longer novices, that can be bamboozled with lofty words. They know that patients are demanding for credible information and hence they now cover the legal grounds by informing them of the potential risks, benefits and alternatives to any given treatment.

In all, while the role of cyber-medicine is very much appreciated in the development of medicine, it should not replace orthodox medicine consultation where the doctors are demigods providing succor to weary bodies.

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Adepeju Adenuga

Adepeju Adenuga is a writer (considering where you are reading this, makes perfect sense). She holds a Masters Degree in Literature in English from the University of Lagos.

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