How physicians can partner with 'Dr. Google'

The use of the internet for medical information was only accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to more conflicting and erroneous advice for patients to be confused by in some cases, according to a March 2 article by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Sometimes information found online can cause a patient to mistrust a physician's recommendations, but there is often an upside to a patient who has done some homework.

"More than ever before, patients come to the clinic or the hospital having done research" about their conditions, Jonathan Marron, MD, pediatric oncologist at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and director of clinical ethics at the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics, said in the article. "A well-informed family is a wonderful thing for physicians. It helps to make discussions — about treatments, about side effects, about what to expect, and about hopes and expectations — that much easier. That helps to build a therapeutic alliance."

An analysis of 25 studies found that "while health professionals' views were mixed," patients reported that "they usually conducted an online search to form a partnership with the healthcare professional as opposed to trying to prove them wrong."

Here are four ways physicians can partner with "Dr. Google" to improve patient outcomes:

  1. Use the information patients found to have in-depth discussions about their conditions, explore alternative assessments and adjust their course of action.

  2. Adopt a mindset of humility and accept that sometimes, Google is right. Patients who combine their symptoms with online research can help physicians explore a diagnosis they might not have considered.

  3. Patient homework can steer physicians to try new treatments.

  4. Acknowledge the patient's efforts to learn and have honest discussions about the evidence behind requested treatments. Physicians who outright reject a patient's request to alternative care can damage the physician-patient relationship. Instead of saying, "You're wrong," try lines such as, "There's so much information out there. How can we work together to sort this out?"

Copyright © 2023 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars