November 7, 2011

Physicians Worry about Misinformed Patients

Again, I must say sorry, but the AACE site has pulled the page referred to in the first link.

The battle between physicians and patients about information on the Internet just will not go away. Physicians continue to say that the Internet is not a reliable source for information and do not want their patients getting their information from the internet. Patients are complaining that their doctors are not providing them with information and the internet is the only place they can see and get information. Now who is right in this battle? Well, both are right, and both are in error.

The physicians are correct about the poor information available on the internet and I agree. There is much misinformation and false information on the Internet – way too much. What are the physicians doing about this other than complaining – very little. Except for one organization, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists that now has a website here with approved sites listed. There are some glaring absences from the AACE list.

While not the same type of site, the American Academy of Neurology has the following web site and provides free subscriptions to their magazine to whom ever desires them.  Yes, for it to be free, you will have a lot of Big Pharma advertising.

Both organizations are still learning how to communicate with the patients, but I will give them credit for reaching out to the patients. Many neurologists and endocrinologists are still not promoting the sites, but this may change. During my next appointments with either, if I am not told about the sites, there will be some teaching done by this patient. Even some endocrinologists are not promoting their site on their own web sites.

Some doctors do use the Internet for themselves, but will discourage their patients from using the Internet for information. I say we need to challenge them to give us a list of URLs for information that is reliable and hold their feet in the fire until they do. This needs to be on a sheet of paper that can be handed to each and every patient and updated on an annual basis or more frequently.

Many patients actually do misuse the internet looking for “cures” and “herbal medications” that will supposedly cure their problem. These patients can often be a lost cause for physicians as they will likely not fill any prescriptions and head for the nearest health store looking for a quick cure. Others will simply use the internet to see what they can order there and believe the misinformation.

Another problem is the advertising done on the Internet and television by the pharmaceutical companies promoting their latest drug for whatever disease and this can create very difficult discussions for physicians when they tell their patients that they do not have the problem or do not need the medication. I blame the patients for not doing their research properly and believing what they hear and see. Often these advertisements do not spell out the severe side effects correctly or gloss over them giving just enough information to keep them within FDA guidelines.

Another real problem is patients trying to diagnose everything instead of really reading and doing proper research. Then they give the doctor what they think are symptoms for their self-diagnosis instead of telling the physician what symptoms they actually have and letting the doctor perform the tests and make a proper diagnosis.

The last paragraph in this article is well stated and is what physicians and their professional organizations need to be doing. Another article on the neurology now web site is very interesting. It tells a doctors story of why he changed his view of using the internet, even with the misinformation that is on the Internet. 

Read the press release about the survey results here.

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