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French GPs using Google for consultations

An overwhelming number of GPs in France are resorting to the internet search engine Google to help them find medical information that will help with their patient consultations, a new survey revealed this week.

French GPs using Google for consultations
File photo: hang_in_there/Flickr

Despite patients being warned about the dangers of using the internet to help diagnose their maladies it turns out doctors in France are doing exactly that.

In the first survey of its kind a staggering 96 percent of doctors admitted to using Google to search for medical information, a quarter of which, will use it several times a day.

The poll of practitioners titled “Web and Health” revealed doctors are using the search engine to find out scientific information or details of a pharmaceutical products as well as an aide during their consultations with patients.

“As part of their professional research, pharmaceutical websites feature prominently, suggesting the link between the two is significant,” said Beatrice Chemla, the president of the Research Institute Listening Pharma, which carried out the survey.

The internet is now home to thousands of “medical” websites offering info and advice on anything from minor skin rashes to deadly diseases, but thankfully it appears most French doctors are not just searching anywhere for help.

At the top of the list of searched sites was the Haute Autorité de Santé (High Authority for Health) and perhaps reassuringly at the bottom of the list were social media sites.

The survey also revealed that unlike doctors, who can access more trusted websites, patients in France were more inclined to view the most visited sites when it comes to looking for online medical help.

The content might be “more visible”, said Sylvain Page from communications agency Hopscotch Digital, but its “reliability can be questionable.”

According to the survey the most searched topic put into Google.fr is cancer, followed by Aids, diabetes and depression.

Web users in France are also making use of social media sites like Facebook to discuss their ailments, most notably mental health issues.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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