Pink made the important point that we physicians are all too aware of. Consumers, maybe especially healthcare consumers, now have access to information that only twenty years ago wasn’t even imaginable.
You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? A patient shows up for his allotted 15 minutes with a stack of reading that he printed off the internet. It’s the cause of many an eyeroll in the doctor’s lounge.
According to the Pew Research Center, 87% of US adults use the internet. In the past year 72% of those searched online for health information. And 77% of online health seekers started their last session at a search engine.
Gone are the days when you were the expert and the patient deferred to your expertise built on years of education, training and experience. Today your medical thinking is compared to that of every Tom, Dick and Harry with a GoDaddy account and an opinion.
We are now in the Age of Information Parity.
There are a few ways to handle this.
- You can cop an attitude and tell your patients that you are the expert and they shouldn’t believe anything they read on the internet.
- You can spend precious office time sifting through reams of printouts or squinting at your patient’s smart phone. Do this until you can’t take it any more then revert to copping an attitude, above.
- See this situation for the gift that it is and make it work for you.
I recommend the third option.
If you are lucky enough to have patients who are so eager to participate in their care they spend their own time doing research, you’ve hit on a gold mine.
Here are a few suggestions to make it work for you.
1. Create a reference page on your website.
On this page list the websites or webpages that you recommend for patients who want to research their own conditions. Let your patients know that you are eager to partner with them in their healthcare so you’ve built this resource to help them on their quest to learn more.
2. Become the resource your patients turn to.
Create resource guides for the problems you see consistently in your practice, and add them to your website. Describe the most current evidence-based approaches to these conditions in plain language. Within the guides, link to the most relevant medical literature for the patients who want to study further.
3. Anticipate the Google searches your patients will make.
If a health issue is in the news – ebola, measles vaccines, dietary cholesterol from egg yolks – then Google it yourself. See what articles your patients are going to find when they search, and familiarize yourself with the good and the bad. Then address the topic in a blog post, newsletter, or even a podcast. This will help counter internet misinformation with solid medical evidence. And it will encourage your patients to come to your website before they visit Dr. Google.
The Age of Information Parity offers an opportunity to engage patients in their own healthcare, build your relationship with them, and improve their willingness to make the changes or accept the treatments they need for optimum health.
Don’t miss the opportunity to make that happen!