Saturday, December 29, 2007

Patients Who Google

I read an article in Time Magazine from a Dr. Haig who couldn't tolerate a patient who "googled" him, her health conditions and treatments. It made me stop and think about patients who "google". They often send me articles they have discovered about their illness or bring information they have downloaded. Many times the information is not exactly evidence based nor well researched. There are a plethora of experts with "Doctor" in front of their name that tout research that was published in an obscure journal. Other times it is anecdotal or advertisements. The internet can be a wonderful thing but one needs the ability to sift through the junk. When it comes to health, that is my role.

Despite the fact that there is very little a patient can bring me that I don't already know...I don't disdain the effort. An involved patient is one I can work with. I try to show respect for whatever product or treatment they are asking about but I don't hesitate to give "the other side of the story" if there is evidence against it. Many times it wont hurt anything but their pocketbook and I tell them so.

Here is what I don't like, however. I don't like it when a patient wants me to research something obscure. If they have heard of a new medication or treatment that is not yet proven, I ask them to get the information and I'll review it. According to a recent study in Annals of Internal Medicine, primary care physicians already spend almost an entire DAY a week doing unreimbursed work between patient visits. I want the patient to do the "googling", not me. I'll do the interpreting, if asked, at the time of the next office visit.


Jen said...

I've found that most of our doctors appreciate it if I can bring them any new information...with 3 kids with multiple conditions, I don't expect our pediatrician or specialists to be completely up to date on everything that affects our family...they have hundreds of patients with different conditions, and I only have about 5 things that I need to read up on.

If I read about something new and interesting I'll print it out and give it to them at our next visit, but I'm fully conscious that they know a lot more than I do, and I'm lucky that I trust their judgment.

I don't think that there's anything wrong with googling and passing on information as long as you use some common sense- I have very little interest in snake-oil or non-peer-reviewed "treatments" or meds, so generally it seems to work out fairly well for all of us.

Linz said...

If you have a condition like Fibromyalgia as I do then it is not unusual to find doctors who know very little about the condition. I crossed the line from expert-patient (someone who is expert in how their condition affects them) to patient expert (an expert who just happens to be a patient too) a while ago and I have only ever met 2 doctors who know as much as me about my condition, even at conferences aimed at medical professionals.