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A cyber-doctor, or cyberdoc, refers to any large source of health and medical information transmitted via electronic media. The term was originally coined in 2001 in response to the proliferation of health-related websites at the time, many of which offered medical advice to visitors. With the evolution of technology, the definition of "cyberdoc" has grown to include other reference forms, including data discs, e-mail services, and online videos that share medical information. Certain websites also establish online personalities as cyberdocs in an effort to generate a greater sense of connection with visitors.
Many individuals choose to refer to a cyberdoc as an initial step towards self-diagnosis. The ease of access and the ability to consult at any given time make cyberdocs an attractive choice. Users also get a wealth of information regarding their symptoms, including the causes and exact working mechanisms behind them. Most online references include advice for self-medication, as well as precautions for safe treatment.
A number of websites offer consultation services that serve as cyberdocs. Users can message a cyberdoc through a predetermined channel on the website or through e-mail. This begins an online correspondence between the patient and one of the website's experts regarding symptoms, diagnosis, and possible treatment options. In most cases, the contact is limited to a single question and answer, although it is not uncommon for users to ask follow-up questions afterward. The correspondence can either be published directly on the website for the purposes of other users or it can take place privately upon user request.
Various online video sharing sites also host a number of cyberdocs. These are usually medical experts offering free advice for user education or for marketing their own websites. Topics covered by a video cyberdoc typically include tutorials on self-diagnosis, explanations of various medical procedures, and in-depth looks at the mechanisms behind health problems. Cyberdoc videos can also provide tips on preventing the development of certain diseases.
Cyberdoc technology has expanded to mobile gadgets. Users can download applications that contain medical information, health reminders, and safety tips for on-the-go reference. The added convenience of having a portable resource makes this an attractive option for many individuals.
Experts argue, however, that dependence on a cyberdoc can lead to serious health issues. Users can misdiagnose themselves and unintentionally worsen their conditions either through leaving the actual problem untreated or through improper medication. In addition, symptoms to common illnesses might be mistaken for those of very serious diseases, causing undue psychological stress to patients. A number of medical professionals recommend using cyberdocs solely for educational purposes and not for self-help.