GPs' reactions to "internet-informed" patients

Don’t dismiss ‘cyberchondriacs’

Dr Anthea Martin
VIEWPOINT
Dr Anthea Martin
Senior Medical Adviser with Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland

Searching the web

Many people now search the web for health information

As the internet becomes more and more easily accessible it is perhaps inevitable that patients should try to self-diagnose.

In this week’s health opinion column Scrubbing Up, medical law expert Dr Anthea Martin warns doctors against dismissing all web-wise patients as ‘cyberchondriacs’.

Picture the scene. A man walks into a GP’s consultation room and the doctor’s eye is immediately drawn to a 10-page print-out in his hand.

The GP suspects the patient has spent hours researching all of his symptoms on the internet before arriving at the appointment, armed with his dossier of medical information.

Some GPs said they were frightened of losing control of the consultation and of the prospect of having to admit to their patient that they have read something they don’t understand

It’s possible he has diagnosed himself with anything ranging from a simple cold or flu to some exotic disease such as dengue fever.

So, what would be the GP’s initial reaction? Does she welcome the chance to discuss her patient’s health, or does a look of panic cross her face while she gazes anxiously at the clock wondering how long the consultation will take?

click the link to read more about GPs’ reactions to “internet-informed” patients

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