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  1. The internet, when utilized with a competent user, may not replace a doctor, but certainly has the ability to compliment or supplement the particular treatment of such a patient.

  2. The headline begs a question: how many physician visits are unnecessary in the first place? The reality is that physicians are so far out of the loop on our evolving but not life threatening medical problems, and so inaccessible, that the ability of patients and families to find answers to $200 questions themselves is a boon to everyone. No-one disputes the highly variable quality of “information” on the Internet, which is why trusted sources play such an important filtering and validating role. We will continue to rely on physicians’ wisdom and judgment. Perhaps we will learn to make better use of that wisdom and judgment if we are better informed about what’s wrong with us in the first place.
    The issue of how well informed our physicians are (particularly twenty plus years out of residency) given the flood of new medical knowledge should be the subject of a separate post. How much time do physicians spend exploring new knowledge in their own field, given time famine, exhaustion and the flood of new studies?
    If all they depend up are grand rounds (in the big places), monthly continuing ed sessions at their local hospitals (poorly attended) and drug detail people, we’re all in a heap of trouble. Accumulated wisdom from long clinical practice is valuable, but it is not enough. This is why the emergence of communities like Sermo is so important. The reality is that there are serious knowledge gaps on both sides of the exam room.

  3. Should Cancer Patients Do Their Own Research? The Internet Savvy Cancer Patient
    An oncologist faces many challenges, the greatest of which is helping patients fight daily battles against cancer that are not always won. However, widespread patient exposure to Internet technology can sometimes become another source of frustration for an oncologist. Properly managed, however, the net-savvy cancer patient can be a time-saving asset. A number of studies have shown that a more educated patient is a more compliant patient. What is essential is effective communication between provider and patient that can prevent miseducation and misunderstanding.
    As patients with cancer launch increased explorations into medical cyberspace, they are finding out more about diseases, and researching therapies and therapeutic alternatives. Increasingly, they are questioning and challenging physician authority. Properly managed, the Internet can enhance the oncologist-patient relationship, rather than undermine it. Patients can be directed to sites that improve their lifestyle, motivate greater levels of therapeutic compliance, cut down on basic questions, help combat illness more effectively, increase wellness and prevention skills, and maintain overall wellness. The Internet, when used correctly, can be a powerful educational tool.
    Clearly, it is in the best interest of most oncologists to explore, in partnership with patients, the opportunities afforded by the new technologies. Where, then, to begin? Before engaging patients, it is recommended that oncologists verse themselves in Internet basics or at least have a working knowledge of how to guide a patient down the correct electronic pathway. Once this base is established, it is recommended that oncologists approach patients when appropriate and as time permits. The phenomenon of the Internet-savvy cancer patient will only become more prevalent as time goes on.
    Studies have found that newly diagnosed cancer patients who turn to the Internet for health-related information about their cancer have an increased positive attitude about the treatments and outcome, take an active role in decisions regarding treatment, and see their relationship with the physician as one of partnership. They saw the Internet as a powerful tool that enhanced their decision-making ability. They didn’t want to feel powerless or have to rely on the doctor to make all of the decisions.
    You don’t go to blogs or discussion boards for information per se, but rather for new ideas. Simply reading the comments is an excellent learning process. They are a way of sharing information and stimulating ideas. A great way to get new perspectives and information.
    Newly diagnosed cancer patients who use the Internet to gather information about their disease have a more positive outlook and are more active participants in their treatment, according to a Temple University study published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Health Communication.

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