You see the cartoons and hear the jokes all the time.
“Patients will be charged extra for any diagnoses found on the internet”
“Do not confuse your google search with my medical degree”
Even some of my patients will apologize to me in the exam room before they tell me about the internet research they have done. It seems every one understands that doctors have a profound dislike for their patients reaching out to Dr Google.
Do you know what I say when a patient tells me they found some thing they think is medically important on the internet?
“Good. Lets see what you found.”
Investigating symptoms and conditions on the internet is a signal that these patients are involved in their own health. They care enough to spend some time thinking about their symptoms and their bodies. I would ask those doctors who crack jokes about patients searching the web, “Would you prefer your patient didn’t care at all?”
When a patient brings me a list of information from the internet, several wonderful events can happen. First, those patients have often thought a lot about their symptoms and what is happening to their bodies. That provides me as the clinician with a nice medical history. We can also talk about what kind of websites they are using and how to seek out those that are more reputable. That makes the patient more efficient and better informed. Being a partner with a patient validates their decisions. Today it is researching a condition on the internet. Tomorrow it may be exercise or nutrition changes.
As a doctor, talking them through their own medical research acknowledges to the patient that we really are a team. And the truth is that sometimes, the patient is right. These patients are not questioning my medical authority. They just want to feel better. It’s my job to help them get there. Great clinicians use whatever tools are needed to heal their patients, whether that is a stethoscope, a CT scan, a good bedside manner or even Dr Google.