Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Patients need to use Dr Google wisely

Most doctors don't like patients who search for information on the internet . Their experience has been that because there is so much unreliable information on the internet , these patients get lost and confused; and are always trying to second-guess their doctor's advice. This is why they tell them to stay away from doctor Google ; and many doctors get irritated when patients bring a huge sheaf of printouts from dozens of website. Many doctors are convinced that all this online research is a waste of time, because patients don't have the maturity to be able to interpret the information they unearth. Not only do they lack context , a lot of the information they retrieve is of poor quality and outdated . The standard party line amongst doctors is that patients are worse off by going on the internet . They should instead just trust their doctor to do what's right for them.

In a perfect world , patients would be able to trust their doctor blindly, but we all know that this is not going to happen, because doctors have frittered away the trust patients used to repose in them. Also, the internet is always available , and it's perfectly natural that patients are going to use it, so it's quite silly to prohibit them from doing so.

When we tell our patients not to go on the internet, we are doing them a disservice, because we are throwing the baby out with the bath water.  All we need to do is to help our patients to learn to differentiate good sites from the bad ones . Patients also don't enjoy spending hours digging up medical information  when they go online - they'd much rather be watching movies on Netflix if they had a choice !  Patients will often get a headache when they try to do their research on their own, because they get confused when the come across conflicting information n different websites. They aren't sure whom to trust, and they resent the fact that their doctor is not willing to help them to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Doctors need to guide patients to go to  reliable websites - for example, those from Harvard Medical School; or Johns Hopkins; or the NIH ; or the UK NHS. This way both patients and their doctors confident that the information they will get will be updated, trustworthy and reliable. They should use these sites as the bedrock of their homework , and then build on this if they need more depth. This way they won't waste their time - and their doctors - by going to unreliable sites.

Yes, there are lots of unreliable sites online , but why do you need to worry about them if you're going to focus only on the reliable sites , which empower you with trustworthy information?

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