Internet is a great source of information for patients and medical staff, games are starting to swift into an attempt to produce healthy lifestyle and there are applications in our phones that help us control some aspects of our health everyday. There is a lot to talk about and I promised a post about Health Games that I am preparing, but I wanted to share something about the internet and the well-informed patient first, something I wrote a while ago.
Today when people feel sick, they can go to the internet and learn what may be happening to them without talking to a doctor. After their research, they decide if they need to see a doctor, need treatment or even additional screening.
We have what I call “well-informed patients” now that know what they want out of the medical staff and installations. Before, usually patients were clueless of their illness, apart from the usual cold or what a friend told them they might have as they recently passed it. In theory this can be really helpful to accelerate the diagnostic, the problem is that information on the internet is not regulated yet and there are many blogs and forums were people share their personal experience and answer on their own judgement.
That causes confusion among users since some of the blogs or forum posts have dramatic patient experiences, people who were diagnosed with a cold when it was a cancer. That creates fear and mistrust, so when the patient arrives with his diagnostic taken from the internet, convinced he might have cancer, makes it very difficult for us to do our job efficiently as his answers might be compromised by the information he got, as well as demanding unnecessary screenings and exams.
So, how do we deal with these community of patients, which will probably be growing in the future? I see the future of this in our hands, as healthcare professionals we should have community managers to handle and control health blogs, and promote official well-supervised blogs and forums over non-supervised ones. However, people might still have bad experiences with staff, human errors are still possible the health community manager should allow comments as long as they do not provoke confusion or mistrust.
On the other hand, if you are a medical professional in your office and you have a patient like described before, first you need to question where they got their information from – their source. This will help us understand where he is coming from (anger-fear or well-grounded research). If the source turns out to be from a potential good source, we will ask why did he do the investigation, and what words he used in the search engine. This information is very important as it will tell us whether the patient had an idea about what he was looking for (maybe a disease that runs in the family, personal reasons or his symptoms). Then we must ask the patient what he found out. This is important as it will reassure the patient knowing we acknowledge his reasons to think that he has a certain illness as well as what he had been working hard to investigate. And this is how our patient will help us on the diagnose and we will help him in his disease.
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