Self-diagnosis by patients, goaded by online tools and search engines is having a negative effect, not only on doctors treating patients, but also on the general health of the population. It increases the stress levels of people who now expect their physicians to prescribe more antibiotics.
Doctors over prescribing medication has led to the rise of antibiotic resistance, reports Futurism. It is not uncommon for people feeling a bit under the weather to type in their symptoms into an online diagnostic tool to find out about their disease. When a list of possible diseases pops up, patients usually go straight to the worst-case scenario.
As a result of the pressure from patients, doctors also give in and let them take more medication than what is strictly necessary because of what the report calls the "Yelp Effect". It is a condition where service providers bend over backwards to satisfy customers because they are scared of bad online reviews. Negative reviews can do a great deal of damage to a doctor's reputation.
So doctors simply give what patients want, not necessarily what the condition requires. Patients, it turns out, want a lot of antibiotics. A 2016 study titled, "Prevalence of Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescriptions" found that one third of medical records show how antibiotics were given to viral infections. Viruses are not killed by antibiotics.
"Providers believe — whether it's accurate or not — that there is a business reason, in terms of customer satisfaction, patient retention, to give patients what they want," David Hyun, a pediatric infectious disease physician who recently directed a review of why doctors mis-prescribe antibiotics, told Wired. "We frequently hear providers say, 'If I don't give the antibiotics, the patient will go across the street, to urgent care or another primary care practice, and get them there.'"
There are many instances of how an antibiotic can wreak havoc in a patient's body and create resistance as bacteria get a chance to slowly develop resistance. Bacteria simply get used to the overabundance of the antibiotics, when viral infections are treated with medicine that is not designed to work, and when the right drug is given at the wrong dosage.
"The overarching message is that whenever there is inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, it is not necessarily just about medical knowledge deficits or inexperience," says David Hyun, a pediatric infectious disease physician who directed the Pew study. "There are a lot of social and economic and behavioral factors that play out during the interaction between patient and provider."
The report points out that there is now a petition put out by Physicians Working Together to Yelp, requesting the removal of negative doctor reviews. "By the nature of our work we must sometimes tell patients and families things that they do not want to hear", wrote one of the doctors.