The internet is a wonderful tool for us to gather information. One of the subjects that many use the internet for is to learn more about their health. Using online searches to increase your understanding about a potential or existing medical condition can be beneficial, but doctors do have warnings about how and when to utilize this technology.
There is no doubt that the internet has changed the physician – patient dynamic. It is estimated that over 90 percent of adults in the United States have access to the internet and approximately 75 percent of them have used it to conduct a search about a health condition within the last year.
For the most part, online searches are being done by patients before they see their doctor to determine if a visit is even necessary. Some patients are armed with a plethora of knowledge when they arrive for their appointment, and they are asking their physician to confirm rather than diagnose a condition. In other instances, many patients are using the internet to discuss medication and treatment options with their doctor as well as referrals for specialists.
But how are these internet searches affecting the doctor-patient relationship? If used correctly, doctors usually welcome and embrace their patient’s increased knowledge about their condition. They believe that an educated and engaged patient is better equipped to better manage their condition and make the correct lifestyle choices to improve their health. Most physicians also believe that if their patients come to them having already picked up some information online, they will get more out of the visit based on their increased knowledge of their condition. Lastly, many doctors use the internet as a valuable tool to reinforce what they are advising to those patients who may be otherwise skeptical of a diagnosis or treatment option.
Even with all of its advantages, doctors do warn that using the internet as a medical resource does have its pitfalls. Physicians want patients to understand that health information on the internet is endless and not all of it is accurate. Relying on incorrect information can cause patients to either worry needlessly over a false self-diagnosis, or worse, fail to seek treatment after incorrectly believing that they do not need medical attention.
The information found on the internet is intended to be supplemental, and not replace seeing your physician. The best recommendation to incorporate information obtained online is to bring it with you to your appointment and review it with your doctor. By collaborating with your provider you can build a better relationship that can ultimately lead to better health outcomes.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.