Thursday, December 27, 2007

Medical Googlers

Are you a medical Googler? This is the term used by a doctor to describe a difficult patient who used Google to both research her disease and options - and him. Apparently the fact that she used Google contributed to her ill-behaved child and rude manners, who knew?

Tongue less in cheek, of course there's a problem with relying too much on the internet for medical advice - if you're not a doctor (or medical personnel of some sort), chances are pretty good you can't sift out the good advice from the bad advice with 100% accuracy. A doctor has the training to do this; some, like the author of the rather paternalistic Time article, view this as the primary purpose of a doctor - to have the training to separate out good from bad.

But as others note, the problem doesn't appear to be a patient who Googles their condition, so much as it is a patient who doesn't laugh at his jokes, or place full trust and authority in the doctor's hands (like nurses, who are apparently the best patients for just this reason).

The doctor claims this woman tracked down so much information on him, she even knew where he lived. And if this is true, then the patient certainly stepped over a line from researching disease/provider offering treatment to "kinda scary stalker behaviour" - and it's understandable anyone would be creeped out by that. But researching your own disease, and being able to ask "excruciatingly well-informed questions" (a problem, according to the doctor), seems like the precise thing patient-advocacy groups advocate for: a well-informed patient who is making the most informed decisions possible.


Anonymous said...

I am a health professional and find it interesting that the well-informed patients scare other health professionals.

Yes, there is a lot of rubbishy information out there (I should know better than most - I work in nutrition), but someone who has done some research is generally more motivated and engaged in their care than someone who comes in expecting you to have the answers.

My partner has a very rare autoimmune condition - and believe it or not his doctors were grateful for the research he did - his consultant was nearing retirement and had only had one person previously with this condition, so having someone who was willing to participate in their own care made life far easier. He is in remission, despite the odds against it, and although we can't attribute that all to his own efforts, I am convinced his engagement helped.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. My mother had a physician get all self-righteous and rude when she brought in some information I provided her on a fairly major thing she was going through. Then mom dropped the "my daughter is a medical librarian" bomb, and Dr. Haughty changed his tune. Yes, information can be difficult to sort out, but informed patients are not the enemy. Some of them might even have had professional help in finding the information they want to ask about. ;)

SabrinaW said...

I admit, I probably bridge on being that type of patient "House" so often lampoons because I do take an active interest in my health. However, I have been pleased to give the "Bioethicist Gaze" to a physician treating my friend for a dog bite to let him know I was watching him and wanted him to explain treatment fully to my friend.

On a different topic, there is still an embarrassing gap in gynocological knowledge, and I have been forced to consult online resources to try to figure out some conditions that none of my physicians have been able to give me satisfatory answers on. "We don't know what's wrong with you, and we don't know how X pill helps, but sometimes it does, so why don't we try that?" I say "No."

Anonymous said...

Since we are talking about "googling" your symptoms, I thought this link may be useful: