Calling Dr. Google
From the onset of the Internet, patients have had easy access to more medical information than ever before. Do a search for “Medical Information” and Google will provide more than 894 million results in 0.27 seconds!
While knowledge is generally considered a good thing, patients who self-diagnose often create problems for themselves and their healthcare providers. Nurses and physicians are finding that more time is required to explain, and often discredit the inaccurate information patients find on the Internet. And, unfortunately, some patients become skeptical of their healthcare provider, rather than their web-based medical source.
Although it can be helpful to have an informed patient, there are many risks for patients who self-diagnose:
- A wrong diagnosis could be mis-managed, with patients rushing to the ER when it is not medically necessary, or
- Not seeking medical attention when they should.
- Some patients develop “cyberchondria” where Internet users become convinced they have the “worst case scenario” affliction based on their Internet findings.
It is important for providers to work WITH patients and encourage them to continue caring about their health
But to do so in a manner that will benefit them rather than potentially harm or alarm them. Healthcare providers can benefit by engaging in these activities:
- Encourage patients to discuss their findings, and be open to checking the source of information.
- Provide patients with a list of quality medical websites that provide accurate information, such as www.cdc.gov.
- Write down your diagnosis, treatment plan, prescribed medications, and general reasoning for your decisions. This should be included in the patient chart, and is a resource to provide to the patient.
- Consider working with a telephone nurse triage service so that patients can call and speak to a licensed registered nurse when they have questions or concerns about their health. Telephone triage can serve as a valid information resource for patients, while also increasing the quality of care and efficiency of health care providers.
Internet-based health information is growing every day. To properly care for patients, providers are going to need to increase their communication, and proactively address their patients’ need for health information. Through simple, cost-effective solutions, health care providers can minimize the negative effects of the “MeMD” population
Mueller, A. (2013). Infographic: The dangers of self-diagnosing online. Ragan’s Health Care Communication News. Retrieved June 4, 2013 from The Dangers of Self Diagnosing Online
Troxel, D. (2011). Manage malpractice risks with self-diagnosed patients. KevinMD.com. Retrieved June 4, 2013 from Manage Malpractice Risks of Self Diagnosed Patients