Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Doctor versus Dr Google

Both patients and doctors often find Dr. Google very frustrating . Patients are happy to get information from Dr. Google, but they often get lost and confused because different websites provide. diametrically opposite information . They don’t know which website to trust ! Even worse, when they ask their doctor for help in order to make sense of this conflicting information , most doctors often get angry and upset . They feel that patients are wasting their time by asking them these irrelevant questions - especially when the information on some of these websites is pure rubbish and hocus-pocus. Sadly, it’s often the sites with the most quackery which are most attractively designed, because their job is to lure the unwary patient into buying the services and products they hawk.

Some doctors tell their patients – Please stop wasting your time ( and mine !) by scouring the
Internet . I am your doctor – just trust me and I will do what’s right for you. Some doctors get angry when they find that their patient is counter-checking their advise by going online, because they feel that this means that their patient is trying to act like a smart-aleck by pitting his knowledge against the doctor’s years of heard-earned wisdom.

While it's true that a little knowledge can be dangerous , and that we don't want patients to become half baked doctors , it's also equally true that ignorance is not bliss and that knowledge is power . We need to encourage our patients to find information for themselves . The fact of the matter is that doctors have a limited amount of time , and it's impossible for us to educate and inform patients efficiently within the 10-30 min of face-to-face consultation time we get with them.

A good doctor should be happy that his patients are looking for information on their own . This means the patient is responsible and is actively engaged in trying to get better ! If the information he finds corroborates everything the doctor has told him, the patient is going to get even more confidence in his doctor and this can only strengthen the doctor-patient relationship .

The smart patient needs to understand that doctor and Dr Google actually complement and supplement each other , and the intelligent patient learns to make use of both these resources well.

The great thing about Dr Google is that it’s available 24/7 – and is free. There’s tons of information – which is part of the problem ! A lot of the information is very poor quality, and many patients are not sophisticated enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Doctors , on the other hand , have a limited amount of time , and if patients do their homework prior to seeing the doctor, they would be  able to make more efficient use of their doctor’s time , creating a win-win situation for everyone .

I wish doctors would take ownership of their responsibility to providing reliable trustworthy information to their patients, and do this by publishing their own personal websites . If they did this, there would be no need for patients to go to Dr Google at all – they would much rather get their information from their personal doctor’s website !

A good doctor would encourage his patients to find information - and will help them by telling them which sites are reliable, so they don’t waste their time and fill their head with myths and misconceptions. This could easily be done by email, so the patient doesn’t even need to come to the clinic.

The best doctor would  provide the information which the patient needs on his own website , so the patient does not even need to ask ! This could just be a simple curated list of reliable websites. This will help prevent doctors from getting frustrated when patients come to them with pages and pages of internet printouts which are completely unreliable.

Doctors dislike patients who cross question them or cross-examine every bit of advice they provide, simply because they have read something on the internet which differs from their advise. Dumping 50 pages of internet printouts on this doctor’s desk to prove how well-informed you are is just going to turn off your doctor and aggravate him !

Good patients will prepare a one page summary of their understanding of their problem, and ask the doctor for his opinion. The best patients will condense everything they have learned, and then share the hard-earned fruits of their research with other patients by publishing their own blog and website.

Older doctors don’t like these patients because they feel that their authority is being challenged – that even though they have spent 10 years studying medicine and practicing it for 20 years, these clueless whippersnappers have the temerity to question their advise !

This is not a comfortable feeling for lots of doctors , who are used to adopting a paternalistic role, and have been used to treating patients who never had the courage to ask questions ( even though they were full of doubts). The older generation meekly adopted a “doctor know best” approach,  but those times have now gone.

Both doctors and patients need to understand that doctors don't always have all the answers – and that it’s better for patients and doctors to share both areas of knowledge as well as ignorance , so that they can work together to find the solution which works best for that particular patient.

Confused by Dr Google ? Or by your doctor ? Please send me your medical details by filling in the form at http://www.drmalpani.com/free-second-opinion so I can guide you sensibly!

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