The Dangers of the IDIOT (Internet Derived Information Obstruction Treatment) Syndrome


When a patient visits a healthcare facility, their symptoms need to be documented accurately. This documentation helps healthcare providers in making accurate diagnoses and formulating appropriate treatment plans. Most physicians rely on a medical transcription service provider to document medical history and symptoms and create comprehensive medical records for patients. One problem arising from the rapid increase in internet use in the current digital era is the increasing tendency of patients to turn to “Dr. Google” to try to identify a medical condition based on the symptoms they are experiencing. Some even quit their treatment because they have blindly trusted internet medical information. Cyberchondria is the term used to describe the behavior of individuals who excessively search for medical information online and often jump to conclusions about having serious medical conditions based on their online research. Researchers have coined an informal name for this modern phenomenon – “Internet Derived Information Obstructing Treatment (IDIOT) syndrome”.

Get clear, comprehensive medical record with our reliable medical transcription services!

Call (800) 670-2809 today!

The Growing Influence of the Internet in Healthcare

Today, the internet is assuming a progressively significant role in patients’ quest for healthcare-related information. Patients are accessing health-related information through diverse online platforms for knowledge dissemination.

Based on the findings of the annual Manhattan Research U.S. consumer health data study (September 2006), a growing number of Americans are utilizing the internet to seek out information related to various health concerns. Google is often the initial choice for many individuals seeking details about health conditions and treatments. As per a PatientsLikeMe survey, almost a quarter of surveyed Americans employ search engines to assess new treatment possibilities, and 29% turn to search engines for insights on medication side effects. The study also highlighted that 11% of respondents rely on social media as a source of trustworthy health information. Additionally, nearly one in ten individuals (9%) employ social media to appraise new treatment alternatives, while 7% use it to gather information about medication side effects (Forbes).

The IDIOT syndrome describes a situation where individuals seek information from the internet and hinder their own medical treatment due to misinformation or excessive self-diagnosis (Cureus. 2022 Aug 12).  Before we dive into the dangers of the IDIOT syndrome, let’s discuss the trends in internet usage by patients and the benefits of this practice.

Benefits of Internet Usage for Patients

The internet serves as a valuable resource for patients, offering a wealth of information on a wide range of medical conditions, treatment options, and self-care practices. Patients can conduct research on their symptoms, gain knowledge about medications, and explore alternative therapies, all from the convenience of their digital devices. Reliable medical websites, online databases, and educational resources empower patients to make informed decisions and actively participate in shaping their healthcare choices. Other advantages that the internet brings for patients include the ability to efficiently select healthcare providers and hospitals, exercise enhanced control over medical care through online research, make informed choices when selecting doctors, identify specialists catering to specific medical conditions, access electronic health records for better health management, engage in online consultations through telemedicine, and monitor health parameters using digital tools and wearable devices for proactive health tracking.

Encouraging patients to show interest in their healthcare and seek information about medical conditions online is positive. But, there’s a flip side to internet usage by patients. People with the IDIOT disorder can end up harming themselves or making their symptoms worse. If they use the medical information they find to self-diagnose without consulting a medical expert.

The Pitfalls of Self-Diagnosis and “Internet Derived Information Obstructing Treatment (IDIOT) Syndrome”

People with cyberchondria tend to spend significant amounts of time searching the internet for information about various medical symptoms, conditions, and treatments. When people spend a lot of time online trying to make sense of their own health, it can lead to unnecessary anxiety.  Cyberchondria can have a detrimental effect on mental and health and quality of life. In some cases, it can even potentially lead to harmful outcomes due to self-treatment for uncertain conditions. People with the IDIOT syndrome tend to:

Misinterpret information: Individuals with cyberchondria search online for information on both real and/or imagined symptoms of some health condition. They might misinterpret common or mild symptoms as indications of serious diseases due to the information they find online. For example, an article in Psychology Today notes that individuals experiencing mood swings might often assume they are dealing with manic-depressive illness or bipolar disorder. However, mood swings are a symptom that can manifest in various clinical contexts. Borderline personality disorder and major depression are two alternative diagnoses where mood swings can be a symptom.

Experience anxiety: Constantly reading about potential health issues can lead to heightened anxiety and distress. Worsening of anxiety-depressive symptoms and quality of life. cyberchondria is a contributing factor to the exacerbation of anxiety-depressive disorders and may impact on the quality of life.

Self-diagnose: They may attempt to diagnose themselves based on the information they find online, often without consulting a medical professional. With over 10,000 diseases in existence, symptoms of a single condition frequently share similarities with those of numerous other conditions. While the internet is a valuable resource, it can sometimes have adverse effects, particularly when it comes to your physical and mental well-being. When individuals self-diagnose psychological syndromes, they can miss a medical disease that contributes to their symptoms and lead them to begin wrongful treatment.

Seek unnecessary medical tests: Due to their heightened concerns, individuals with cyberchondria might seek unnecessary medical tests. The Internet has made things worse for hyperchondriacs, says Dr Brian Fallon, MD ( People with hypochondria might become wary when their doctor refrains from providing the referrals or tests they request, notes Fallon. Such individuals may feel unheard, prompting them to seek out another doctor and end up repeating the process, leading to overutilization of healthcare resources.

Overestimate health risks: People who research symptoms or medical conditions on the internet, often tend to interpret the information in a way that leads them to believe they have a more serious or rare condition than they actually do. Cyberchondriacs might focus on the most severe or uncommon conditions they encounter, leading them to believe that they are at a higher risk of having those conditions. They tend to overestimate the likelihood of having rare or severe medical conditions, even when evidence doesn’t support such conclusions.

Cyberchondria can lead to unnecessary anxiety, stress, and even unnecessary medical interventions. If someone is concerned about their health, it’s advisable to consult a qualified healthcare professional to obtain accurate and reliable information and guidance.

The internet provides patients with easy access to a wealth of information about various medical conditions, treatment options, and self-care practices. Patients can research symptoms, learn about medications, and explore alternative therapies. Reliable medical websites, online databases, and educational resources empower patients to be well-informed and engaged in their healthcare choices. However, it is important to realize that the internet is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Guidelines for Patients Seeking Medical Information Online

Here are some valuable guidelines you can share with your patients as they navigate the process of seeking medical information online:

  • When selecting a website, exercise caution. It’s recommended to consult multiple sources for a single medical issue to ensure accuracy and reliability.
  • Trust information only if you can verify the credibility of the source. Be wary of websites that openly disregard other reputable sources of knowledge.
  • Don’t be swayed by a comprehensive list of links, as any website can be interconnected. Ensure that the content includes a clear date of publication or modification.
  • Avoid being misled by quick and easy solutions presented for complex health problems. These might not provide accurate or safe advice.

Ensuring that patients have access to accurate and timely medical records

The comprehensive upkeep of medical records is crucial for coordinating patient care, and the majority of physicians depend on medical transcription support to guarantee precise and punctual clinical reporting within electronic health records (EHRs). US-based medical transcription companies play a pivotal role in ensuring the accurate and timely completion of EHRs, which are shared both with patients and their healthcare providers.

Are your facing challenges with EHR documentation?

Reach out to us and optimize medical record keeping!