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Have you fallen down the self-diagnosis rabbit hole?

New research shows that as an expat, you are likely to consult the internet with your health symptoms. But the risks involved can be significant. Here’s why you need to stop typing and step away from your computer.

Have you fallen down the self-diagnosis rabbit hole?
Researching your symptoms online can lead to health anxiety and incorrect diagnoses.

We’ve all done it. That strangely swollen toe, tingle in the throat or persistent headache. Simply type your symptoms into the online search bar and watch as the diagnoses appear. With the click of a button, innocent symptoms evolve into life-threatening illnesses, or maybe your scary medical dilemmas dissolve away, reassured by the information on your screen. 

In partnership with AXA – Global Healthcare, The Local looks at the risk and rise of the online self-diagnosis.

When your own research goes wrong

A quick look at Reddit uncovers hundreds of tales from medical professionals sharing the mishaps, and the occasional success, of online self-diagnosis. 

One father made a scene at a hospital demanding his daughter have an MRI, only to discover the ‘rash’ she had was a very non-life-threatening ink transfer, probably from her clothing. There was also a woman who searched her health symptoms online and discovered she was in labour (actually!), a man who had convinced himself he had gestational diabetes – a condition exclusive to pregnant women. And then there are the many tales of panicked people visiting their doctor, scared and anxious that they have cancer after doing some online research.

But for all the funny stories and relatable anecdotes, there are of course problems and real risks with diagnosing yourself from information online. 

Avoid a self-diagnosis mishap with a virtual doctor service

Help me, internet 

While the act of online self-diagnosis is not new, the role of online health information and the importance of virtual healthcare grew during the Covid-19 pandemic. People were encouraged to check their Covid symptoms at home, accessing all the information they needed via health authorities online. 

At the same time, the uncertainty around the virus and instructions to stay at home meant many people were unable to access health care, or avoided seeking it in-person. Why take a risk when you can open your laptop and search? 

The problem with this is threefold. You will either self-treat your self-diagnosis (which can be dangerous and do more harm than good). Or, think you are okay, when in fact, you need medical help. Option three involves overreacting to a condition that is not as bad as you thought, causing worry and stress. This can even lead to ‘cyberchondria’, which is when the internet searching of medical information and its associated worries about health becomes excessive. 

Reliable online help is out there. AXA’s global health plans will allow expats to speak to doctors in a range of languages via their Virtual Doctor Service

Virtual healthcare services are convenient but don’t have the risks of online symptom searching.

Mind health matters for expats

For those of us living abroad, the online self-diagnosis phenomenon is even more common. Jumping online is easier than navigating a foreign medical system, right? 

AXA – Global Healthcare recently conducted its biggest ever piece of research on mind health issues, in the wake of Covid-19. The findings can be read in their Mind Health Index

One of the most shocking findings of the research was that almost a third (28 percent) of mental health conditions among people living internationally had been self-diagnosed. 

The study surveyed 11,000 people from 11 countries and territories in Europe and Asia, with 13.5 percent of those participating being individuals who live abroad. The research acknowledged the unique set of mental health challenges faced by expats, who are away from support networks and the comforts of home. 

Depression and anxiety were the most common issues self-diagnosed by internet research among the non-natives surveyed. Worryingly, only 26 percent of internationals who self-diagnosed said their condition was being managed ‘well’ or ‘very well’. This is compared to 49 percent of those with a properly diagnosed condition. Quite clearly this shows the importance of talking to a medical professional about your mental health. 

AXA provides mental health and wellbeing healthcare as part of its global health plans

Overcome the barriers to seeking proper care

Navigating a foreign medical system can be daunting and off-putting, especially when you’re not feeling your best. Not knowing who to call or where to go is only going to exacerbate certain conditions, like anxiety, especially if you don’t yet speak the local language. 

So not understanding the medical landscape of where you live is an obvious reason to turn to online self diagnosing instead. Only around half (53 percent) of expats in AXA – Global Healthcare’s Mind Health Index said they knew how to access mental health help if they needed it. 

“It’s worrying that so many non-natives are using the internet to self-diagnose, but perhaps not surprising,” said Rebecca Freer, Head of Marketing at AXA – Global Healthcare. “Knowing how a local healthcare system works can be challenging, let alone knowing the sources of support you can trust. In contrast to these potential barriers to seeking help, the internet can seem to offer fast and credible sources of advice.”

While accessing healthcare can be one of the challenges of living overseas, overall the experience of life abroad should, and can, be a positive one. Though it’s increasingly common to research your symptoms online, don’t let the risks of a misdiagnosis or an unnecessary spiral of worry and fear impact you. Think again before consulting the internet with your health symptoms.

Get a quote for an insurance plan that suits you from AXA – Global Healthcare and access quality healthcare from their trusted networks

Virtual Doctor service provided by Teladoc Health
Mind Health service provided by Teladoc Health
AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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HEALTH

How to get prescription medicines in Denmark

Are prescription drugs covered by Danish national healthcare? It's complicated.

How to get prescription medicines in Denmark

How prescriptions work in Denmark

You’ve seen your doctor and been given a prescription. Now what? 

Once your doctor inputs the details of your prescription into the Danish health system, your data is available to any pharmacy in the country with a quick scan of your yellow health card. 

All pharmacies in Denmark charge the same price for each medication, so there’s no need to shop around or commit to a single ‘home’ pharmacy — you can just swing into whichever is most convenient for you that day. 

There are also online pharmacies that can fill your prescriptions and deliver them by courier or mail, or arrange for pickup at a pharmacy or another location. Remember to only purchase from websites with the green EU logo, according to the Danish Medicines Agency. 

READ ALSO: What happens if you lose your Danish yellow health insurance card? 

Do you have to pay for prescription medicines in Denmark? 

Mostly, yes — as a rule, prescription medicines aren’t covered by the national healthcare system until you reach certain spending thresholds for the year. At that time, discounts will be applied to your future prescription medicine purchases based on how much you’ve already spent. 

The scheme is called ‘reimbursement,’ which can be slightly misleading — the discounts are applied at the pharmacy, so you don’t have to pay up front and wait for the Danish Medicine Agency to cut you a check. 

Your progress toward the reimbursement thresholds is tracked automatically by the Central Reimbursement Register (abbreviated CTR in Danish), which sums up purchases of reimbursable medications associated with your yellow card. Your current CTR total is given on your receipt from the pharmacy after you purchase a medication, and you can also track your spending on reimbursable medications here

Reimbursable prescription medications purchased in other EU/EEA countries can count toward your CTR. If you’ve bought prescriptions abroad, fill out this form to be reimbursed based on the price of the medicine in Denmark. 

READ MORE: Why does it take so long in Denmark to see a psychologist or therapist? 

What are the reimbursement thresholds for 2022 for adult patients? 

If you’re over 18, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for your first 1,020 kroner of prescription medications. 

Once you’ve spent 1,020 kroner, you’ll receive a 50 percent reimbursement on future reimbursable purchases, and your copay will be 50 percent. That increases to a 75 percent reimbursement after your CTR total hits 1,705 kroner (with a copay of 25 percent) and an 85 percent reimbursement (and copay of 15 percent) for CTR totals above 3,700. 

Remember, your CTR total is calculated by the price of the medications before the reimbursement is applied. (Even though you’ve only paid 50 percent of the cost of medications after you hit the first reimbursement threshold, the full price of the medication is added to your CTR total.)

After your CTR total reaches 20,091 kroner, you’ll receive 100 percent reimbursement on future medications.

Taken together, that means the most you can pay out of pocket for prescription medications in Denmark in 2022 is 4,320 kroner.

The Danish Medicines Agency provides a chart of the thresholds and an example patient’s yearly spending history and reimbursements here. 

READ ALSO: Are you eligible for Danish national healthcare while your residence permit is processing? 

What about reimbursements for children’s medications? 

For patients under 18, all applicable prescriptions have a minimum 60 percent reimbursement rate. That gets bumped up to 75 percent after a CTR total of 1,705 kroner, 85 percent after 3,700 kroner, and 100 percent after 24,628 kroner. 

Just like for adults, the maximum out-of-pocket costs for a child’s prescriptions in a year is 4,320 kroner. 

What if I know I’ll need more than 20,000 kroner of medications? 

If you have chronic conditions or a major health challenge and can tell at the beginning of the year that you’ll hit the CTR maximum, you can apply for an installment plan. 

Pick the pharmacy most convenient for you and request an installment plan — you’ll be able to pay the maximum yearly copay of 4,320 kroner in 12 monthly installments of 360 kroner. 

Generic versus name-brand drugs and reimbursement 

Different drugs with the same active ingredients are called synonymous — generally, if your doctor prescribes a name-brand drug and there’s a less expensive synonymous drug, your pharmacist will give you the option to choose. 

If you stick with the more expensive name-brand drug, you’re responsible for the cost difference and only the price of the generic drug will be added to your CTR total. 

There are sometimes good reasons for choosing a more expensive synonymous drug — if, for instance, you’re allergic to some of the added ingredients in the generic form, your doctor can apply for increased reimbursement on your behalf. 

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