Thursday, September 12, 2013

The online IVF patient

The internet has made it possible for infertile couples to learn about their medical problem and understand more about IVF. However, it isn’t exactly a blessing for everyone. Doctors come across 3 different types of patients , based on how they use the internet for information.

The first kind of patient is the one who is sophisticated and intelligent and knows how to use the internet for information. She reviews the data on an ongoing basis, to improve the information she retrieves from the web. She understands what and where to search for updated information; and can differentiate between a good and a bad website and doesn’t get influenced by misleading information. She searches reliable websites,  and hence the information she retrieves is trustworthy. She is critical and will check and counter check information, so she can make sense of it. She is the perfect e-patient, who participates in forums and reads bulletin boards . The enlightened patient will even start her own blog , so she can share the fruits of her research with others !

The second kind of patient is someone who doesn’t know how to use the internet intelligently. She is unsure what to believe and distrusts online information, because she has been told that the internet is full of rubbish. She prefers to blindly follow her doctor’s advise , rather than waste her time doing research on the internet. This attitude isn’t a problem as long as she consults a good doctor. However, by refusing to go online, she is throwing the baby out with the bathwater; and depriving herself of the chance of becoming better informed. She is the kind of patient whom unscrupulous doctors can easily take for a ride !

The third kind of patient searches for information obsessively, but isn't sophisticated enough to separate the good from the bad. She gets confused easily. She will often spend hours scouring the net , looking for the "magic bullet" . She is happy to try out the "latest" treatment and is easily swayed by anecdotal success stories . She often gets cheated by unreliable websites which are happy to peddle their wares by selling dreams. She can be a nightmare for doctors , as she may refer to outdated data or unreliable forums. While some of these users may seem to be smart ( some of them are scientists) , they are not often not mature enough to be able to look at the big picture in the right context.They may misuse statistics when applying the information they retrieve to their own problem; and will often extrapolate incorrectly  . They get swayed by what they read in medical journal articles ; and may uncritically believe everything if it is full of the newest advances and fashionable scientific jargon.

These patients can be a handful , but if guided by a good doctor, they can be turned into intelligent consumers who can use the internet in the right manner when searching for health information.

Need help in making sense of online information about IVF ? Please send me your medical details by filling in the form at so that I can guide you better !

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