Dangers of Dr Google

With so much information available online, it can be difficult to pick the right products and solutions for you. HEINRICH GRIMSEHL points out the value of consulting the specialists

Recently I visited a rehabilitation doctor’s consultation room. On her desk was a coffee mug with the following words on it: “Please do not confuse Dr Google with my medical degree.

With COVID-19, we have all had a media overload. I am not even talking about social media. I’m referring to suppliers, manufacturers and wholesalers advertising online and going for gold.

Most probably, this is as a result of lockdown; the loss of sales; and the restrictions on physical interaction. During this time when there is a lack of information (or an overload of information) and service delivery with more people engaging online than before, amputees might be prompted to look for solutions online.

It is always good to be proactive and informed, but please be aware of the pitfalls. Let me give you an example:

A while ago I found a presentation online of a new prosthetic hand. The patient was demonstrating all the functions and just how beneficial this product is for an amputee that lost his hand.

During the video the amputee goes to an ATM to withdraw money and, in the process, uses this prosthetic hand to type his pin on the ATM keyboard. Fantastic!

But, in reality, this would hardly ever happen. Most upper extremity amputees would just use their sound limb (normal limb) to do this function and not even think of doing this with their prosthesis.

So, the new amputee would look at this, think it’s wonderful, and go to extremes to obtain this product when it might not be the most suitable solution for their situation.

Unfortunately, this example of misguided information applies to many products in many fields of healthcare including wheelchairs.We have identified the problem above. How do we fix it?

I would strongly advise a patient looking for any type of device to talk to more than one specialist in the field of your particular interest.

And within this solution also lies the truth, that if you are engaging with a proactive practitioner that has your best interest at heart, they will go to lengths to explain differences in function and cost, and arrange demonstrations with the different products so that you could truly make an informed decision based on facts and evidential proof.

By following this route, it is possible to use Dr Google to your advantage. But please do not believe everything you see online!


Heinrich Grimsehl is a prosthetist in private practice and a member of the South African Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (SAOPA). email: info@hgprosthetics.co.za

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