Who Knows You Better… Your Doctor or Dr. Google?
This article ran in the Winter 2019 Edition of the Virginia Hospital Center Magazine.
Today, people have access to an endless source of medical information just a click away. As a result, there is a new kind of healthcare provider, known generically as Dr. Google. On the Internet, the Doctor is always in. But, the Doctor isn’t always right.
Your Doctor First
“Dr. Google can lead to more harm than help because of the anxiety patients feel when coming to see their doctor. Or, worse, when patients choose not to see to their doctor because of what they’ve read on the Internet,” says Arun Bansal, MD, VHC Physician Group–Primary Care Alexandria.
I spend a lot of time explaining to my patients that what they read online does not accurately diagnose what they have.” Aida Girma, MD, VHC Physician Group–Primary Care Arlington, agrees. “If you are concerned enough to Google, you should be concerned enough to come see a doctor who knows your history and can give you a reliable assessment.”
Rely on Trusted Resources
“FamilyDoctor.org is curated by the American Academy of Family Physicians and is a trusted medical resource,” says Morayo Omojokun, MD, VHC Physician Group–Primary Care Falls Church, which is now treating patients six years and older. “It has an interactive symptom checker that can help you identify your symptoms, not to self-diagnose, but to help guide your discussion when you see your doctor.”
In addition, the Mayo Clinic website, MayoClinic.org, has a wealth of information about conditions and diseases, as well as a symptom checker. “When you search online, be wary of medication ads that might pop up,” advises Dr. Girma. “They may be trying to sell unapproved medica- tions or herbals that might not be good for you because of side effects and interactions with other medications you are taking.”
MyChart Has What You Need to Know
“Patients of the VHC Physician Group already have a wealth of good information about their own health through MyChart, our online patient portal,” says Dr. Girma. “An After Visit Summary is posted with labs and test results, as well as advice for moving forward and follow-up. In addition, I post patient education information tailored for each individual, for chronic illness and for new medications.”
“Patients will say they looked up a medication we prescribed and see that it may have side effects,” says Dr. Omojokun. “Rely on your doctor to address the side effects and contraindications. Moreover, don’t stop taking the medication because of something you see on the Internet. Contact your doctor first. Your doctor knows your whole medical history and diagnosis and which medications should be given.”
See Your Doctor Regularly
Your web browser has no personal contact with you. It can’t see you or touch you. It doesn’t know your medical history. Your doctor should be your first source for information. “People get scared if they haven’t been to the doctor for a while,” says Dr. Girma. “That’s why it’s better to come in routinely. When you see your doctor on a regular basis, your visits tend to be shorter and you build a better rapport with your care team.”
“One thing I often tell my patients to put them at ease is, ‘Don’t worry. Without this white coat, I’m just like you.’ I talk to my patients just like they are my friends,” says Dr. Bansal. Dr. Google can’t do that.