The Week That Wasn't: Google Health Searches, Medical Reality TV, and Prediabetes

Narrated by Bret S. Stetka, MD


March 15, 2019

Hi, I'm Dr Bret Stetka and welcome to The Week That Wasn't, our weekly feature that highlights medical stories we didn't cover on the site for one reason or another. Let's see what's happening this week.

If you've ever wondered whether your patients are searching their symptoms before they show up in your office, trust me, they are. Google fields about 1 billion health-related searches daily, according to the UK newspaper The Telegraph  — that's billion with a "b."

Investigating the reasons for that strange bump on your elbow can be reassuring, but on the downside, some searches might lead users to "fake news," particularly on topics like vaccines, weight loss, and cancer cures. Google isn't yet doing enough to vet its query responses.

We'd love to get to more internet-related medical stories like this, but there are so many, it's not always possible.

Our next story is on the rise of medical reality TV shows, a topic we don't normally address on Medscape. According to, viewers are obsessed with programs like A&E's The Toe Bro, which follows a podiatrist and his quest to wipe bunions off the face of the earth, and TLC's wildly successful Dr Pimple Popper, featuring Insta-famous dermatologist, Sandra Lee, MD.

What can we say? We're glad viewers want to learn more about the medical profession. But do they really need extreme close ups of massive zits and oozing boils? There's a danger that these shows will simultaneously terrify viewers and glamorize medical procedures in a way that is far from reality.

And finally, a story on the term prediabetes, a topic we've covered in the past but we didn't this time because it was so well done by the journal Science.

Prediabetes is an overarching term used to describe patients with elevated glucose levels that don't meet the threshold for diabetes. As the Science article points out, it's a word applied so inconsistently it's clinically confusing. There's also no guarantee that elevated glucose leads to diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show progression from prediabetes to diabetes at less than 2% per year, with some studies showing even slower rates.

Although the American Diabetes Association has embraced the term, many organizations, including the World Health Organization, recently deemphasized its use. A growing chorus of experts say it's fear-mongering and want to see this over-medicalized condition dropped from use.

Check out the Science article if you get a chance. It's a great piece of medical journalism.

Thanks for joining. For Medscape's The Week that Wasn't, I'm Dr Bret Stetka.

Script by Liz Neporent; video production by John Rodriguez

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