Patients and the Internet

June 26, 2012
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Thanks to the Internet , it is much easier today for patients to find information about their medical problem. However, the Internet is not an unmixed blessing and we see three kinds of patients , based on how they use the Internet.

The first is the intelligent patient , who is a sophisticated consumer of information , and understands how to use the web. He does repeated searches to progressively improve the quality of information he retrieves. He understands searching can be an iterative process – and he continues to update this knowledgebase on an ongoing basis. He can identify bad websites, so that he doesn’t get misled by poor quality information . He knows which websites are reliable , so that he’s capable of. Retrieving Information which is trustworthy and separating he wheat from the chaff. This is the model e-patient, who is active n forums and bulletin boards;  and may have his own blog as well, to educate other patients. This expert patient knows how to make the best use of the Internet , and can then have intelligent conversations with his doctor , based on his internet searches.

The second kind of patient is the one who gets completely lost and confused. He may be so fed up of the unreliable and conflicting information on the Internet , that he has just given up and has stopped trying to do searches. He feels that patients should not try to play at being doctors ; and that it’s just not worthwhile to spend time on the net. If you have a medical problem, rather than waste time searching for information, it’s best to report to your doctor and ask him to fix your problem for you. While this is a reasonable solution if you’re lucky enough to find a good doctor , this may not always be the right solution – specially if your doctor does not have your best interests at heart.

The third kind of patient is the one who will spend a lot of time on the Internet looking for information , but because he’s unsophisticated , he cannot separate good information from bad . He may get completely confused and lost and start drowning in an information overload. He may make his doctor’s life miserable, because he will come with pages and pages of Internet printouts of poor quality outdated information , and expect the doctor to sort out the good from the bad .These can be difficult patients , but because they are on the right track , with a little bit of guidance from the doctor had some handholding , it’s possible to teach them to become intelligent consumers of health information , so that they can make better use of the Internet.