When the Patient is a pain the doctor blames Google, by Matthew Holt

This article in Time written by an New York-based orthopedic surgeon is called When the Patient Is a Googler. But the problem is not Google, or online health information searching. Most doctors like a better informed patient. The problem is that this patient didn’t respect the doctor and that the doctor in turn didn’t respect the patient.

Trot over to Tara Parker-Pope’s Well blog on the NY Times to see a lot of comments about the surgeon’s attitude. (And no cracks from those of you who know a few orthopedic surgeons!)

Matthew Holt

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  1. Information just like data can be mis-used. And, we have all gotten obsessed at one point or another to be caught by analysis paralysis. The story seems almost unbelievable on both sides.
    Patients are certainly going to continue to get more and more information about their providers, diseases, drugs, etc. The challenge of course is how they get good quality information with the number of health related sites available.
    The FDA has done research on DTC advertising which probably provides some initial insight here. (a quick summary is here http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2003/203_dtc.html)
    Isn’t this the whole concept of Consumerism and Transparency? Of course, that shouldn’t take away from common courtesy and trying to have an intelligent conversation (from both sides).
    Technology is a key topic for consumerism (see my blog about text messaging from yesterday at http://www.georgevanantwerp.com).

  2. Patients are especially vulnerable to proprietary promotion masquerading as unbiased medical research. On one hand, pharmaceuticals advertise extensively and the advertising is manipulative in the extreme. On the other hand, the media advertising is no more misleading than the one-on-one communication that can, and often does, go on between a patient and a physician.
    Physicians see marketing’s effects on their patients every day, but ask them whether the marketing influences their clinical judgments or prescribing behavior, and a chill will descend upon the room. We’re caught in the middle – unsuspecting patients are hyped by media ads, while docs are whined/dined/pimped – out for pharma.
    Sometimes physicians feel uncomfortable knowing a patient is well-informed. But seeing “a barrage of excruciatingly well-informed questions” as being “brainsuckers,” physicians like Dr. Haig should be threatened by well-informed patients.The doctor-patient relationship is a two-way relationship.
    There is a special kind of relationship between a doctor and patient, a friendship where there is mutual trust and open honesty. It’s that comfortable feeling that both the doctor and patient have upon seeing each other. Where information is communicated in both directions many times without words being spoken.
    A statement from any doctor, “don’t Google your disease” should be a caution sign. Properly managed, a net-savvy patient can be a time-saving asset. What is most essential is effective communication between provider and patient that can prevent miseducation and misunderstanding. Apparently, Susan and Dr. Haig didn’t have that kind of relationship.