August 16, 2013

Patients – Use the Internet!

First, let me give you a few warnings. You will be better served by most doctors by not telling them that you are using the internet. Why? Because they have overly sensitive feelings and it is their job to diagnose and treat you, and not the internet. One way to help you determine if you have one of the doctors that will be upset is to ask if they will suggest any internet sites that might be helpful for the problem, illness, or disease you are seeing them for as a patient.

If you are ignored, can see them bristle, or they say they don't want you on the internet, take them seriously. Some doctors will not answer your question. You will need to be prepared to educate yourself and you do not want to discuss your findings with this doctor. Do not bring reams of paper to your appointments as this can only create problems for you and may mean that you will not obtain the treatment you need. Yes, doctors have been known to dismiss patients that use the internet. Other doctors will give you some treatment, but not necessarily, the treatment or attention you need.

If you are seeing a doctor or doctors employed by hospitals or members of a large medical practice, (probably 10 or more doctors), expect them not to use emails with you and to balk at internet discussions. Their time is so restricted for each patient that they do not want to spend time in internet discussion. In addition, their emails are often monitored to the point that they only will use them for official office business and nothing for the patients. There may be a few exceptions, but I have not encountered any. Now that does not mean that doctors in single or small practices may not do things differently and there are those that do. I have been able to have some valuable discussions with a few. Blogging can have some positives, but you can expect some negatives.

One of the members of the diabetes support group I belong to, was told not to use the internet. Because he knew he would, he asked the doctor why. The doctor was more forthcoming than expected and stated that there was very little information on the web that was reliable. He said that there was information, but most of the reliable information was behind the pay wall and even then, much of the information was incomplete or misleading. In addition, when a group of us searched, the doctor was correct. There was conflicting studies, articles with no study basis, and in general we could tell that most was unreliable. At his next appointment, he asked the doctor where he could read reliable information. The doctor handed him a medical book that was well marked up and said if he would return it in two weeks, he could read the information in it. After he had read the relevant information, his comment to us that if it was not for the doctor's notes, even that was not the most explanatory. And admittedly, for a rare disease, this was the best source available to-date.

An acquaintance who likes to research on the internet commented to his doctor about information he had found and the next thing he knew, the doctor was leaving the room and telling him not to come back. Surprised? He was as he knew the information he had made a comment about was reliable and was on the professional organization web site this doctor belonged to. When he found another doctor, this doctor said he knew why he was looking for another doctor – that he had mentioned the internet and was dismissed by the doctor. The new doctor said he could use the internet and ask questions as long as he did not bring stacks of paper to the appointment. As their doctor – patient relationship grew, the doctor gave him the email address with the stipulation of not to abuse it, but that if he had a question about something he was reading, to send him the URL and his question and the doctor would either answer it in an email, or at the next appointment. This has worked out very well for both of them.

Second, there are doctors that are not bound by restrictions because they don't work for a hospital or a large practice and they are willing to talk freely about internet use. They will work with you and direct you to reliable internet sites. They may ask that you do not abuse their time, but in general will answer questions related to the problems you see them for as a patient. They may answer a question with a question to get you to think and often this can provide the answer if you carefully do your reading. If you are truly stumped, they will provide an answer.

My own personal advice is to treasure these doctors and do not abuse the privilege of emails and asking them questions. I have one doctor that I now have the home email address because the doctor knows I will not abuse it. It has been several months since the last question, but that was answered promptly and with many references that answered the questions I was encountering. The doctor could tell from my question where I was going and I know anticipated many of the future questions. I did send a thank you when I completed my reading as the references were great and I did not need to ask more questions.

I hope this gives you some thoughts and provides some ideas for your internet use and especially avoiding or creating problems with some doctors.

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