Saturday, October 18, 2008

Patient Trust: Web Edging Out Doctors!

I received an email with a pretty startling quote the other day.

'85.6 million Americans say they have doubted a medical
professional's opinion or diagnosis because it conflicted with
information they read on the Internet.'

The source is a consulting firm and I don't have access to their methods of making this claim (which makes me immediately skeptical of the claim), however, I'm not entirely surprised.

I think arguing that number is not important though. I think what's more interesting to ponder is whether the number signifies a loss of trust in conventional medicine (and by association, doctors) or whether it suggests that the internet is improving as a source of medical information?

In my daily work I have seen many print-outs from internet sites on strange diagnoses and false claims related to patients' illnesses. I admit that I have cringed when having to spend extra time explaining that the claims don't fit with the current standard of care, sometimes enraging patients. I'm by no means the least open to that kind of discussion in my profession, others are offended by this questioning of their clinical judgement.

We, as a profession, have to accept the fact that the internet will continue to improve as a source of information for patients. With official sites like The Mayo Clinic, and WebMD improving and a new crop of social networking sites devoted to health coming forward it's just a matter of time until people can accurately find the information they need without an appointment to see us.

I want to be a part of the Health 2.0 revolution. I'd rather be at the negotiation table while the format of health information is being molded on the web. That's why I will be joining a team launching a new website in the coming week. In my next post I'm going to be giving the URL so you can all see what a blend of medical knowledge, Web 2.0 expertise and computer logic virtuosity can come up with!

Should doctors get into the Health 2.0 space? Start a discussion. I'm interested to hear what you have to say.


Shannon said...

There has certainly been a change in the way patients view the medical profession. Patients are more educated (generally) and having access to the internet may or may not be beneficial. I can understand a doctor rolling their eyes whenever a patient starts a sentence with "I read on the internet..." but doctors are going to have to adapt. You are right that many doctors are offended when their clinical judgement is questioned. But even more, most doctors aren't really willing to take the full amount of time necessary to really listen to what patients have to say. That only pushes patients to find answers elsewhere. Like online. More than once I have felt dismissed when I questioned a doctor's course of treatment. Like a specific reaction to a certain medicine which I was told was not possible. But a doctor insisted that I was wrong. I understood his reasons for believing this and I am an intelligent person. I considered his suggestions for what might have caused the reaction instead, but concluded that these did not apply in my case. so where does that leave me? Unable to take a medication because of a life-threatening reaction, but with a doctor who is refusing to give me any more advice on the alternatives because he disagrees with me. There has to be some common ground. While I totally respect my doctor's knowledge and expertise and usually would let him be "the expert", I alone am the expert on my own body and it's feelings. Doctors have to be willing to say there might be an exception. Yes, that will take more time. But it might result in better care.

Dr. Jesse Shantz said...

Thanks Shannon for the comment. I always find it hard to believe that doctors haven't learned the difference between 'Not Physiologically Likely' and 'Can't Possibly Happen'. It's like denying a chiropractor can heal ailments. Who am I to make pronouncements about that? Stay tuned for a new website that I'm involved in that will give patients even more opportunity to find the information that matters online. It's coming soon!