In Parts I and II, we stressed the importance of bringing a patient advocate with you to the doctor’s office and stopping the doctor if s/he says something you don’t understand. In this final part of the series we look at the Internet as a resource.
How good is the Internet in helping me know more about an illness or disease?
We live in a world of late appointments followed by hurried visits with our doctors. The Internet fills a gap in our understanding. Doctors can’t know everything about a condition or treatment. Referring to information we’ve gathered online, we increase our knowledge. We can communicate with greater understanding with our doctors; and even better persuade them to refer us to a specialist.
Discuss what you’ve learned online with your doctor. S/He has been keeping record of your health over a period of time and can put into context what you’ve learned.
A personal example will illustrate:
Earlier this week, I went to my primary care physician to inquire, among other things, what I could do to alleviate worsening hot flash symptoms. Late last year, the endocrinologist (doctor who specializes in glands) suggested that I initially try an over-the-counter treatment. I did. My husband assured me after several weeks, it made things worse. So, I researched online, read a book, and talked with other women and learned about other over-the-counter treatments. Trying those, hubby insisted: “These treatments make your hot flashes worse!”
It was time to ask the doctor about prescription treatment options. He said, given my other conditions, there was no easy answer. In fact, he regretted that he had no answer for me; suggesting that I once again follow-up with the endocrinologist to see if any newer treatments were being offered.
How do we search the Internet for information about an illness, disease, or treatment?
I usually search for the disease or illness using Google. You may use Yahoo, MSN, or any other search engine. While my neighbor was fighting prostate cancer, his wife gave me updates. I searched online and provided her with additional information she could share with her husband’s doctors. Some of the search results took me to Wikipedia, others to WebMD. Whatever resource you use, remember, the information is not guaranteed; so, it’s very important to consult with your doctor.
A caveat: Some doctors; particularly, specialists, get a little unnerved when you present the results of your online research. If your doctor is not open to receiving outside information, present what you learned, piecemeal. Don’t challenge your doctor with your newfound knowledge. Don’t use statements such as: Well, I was researching online and the consensus is that (name) treatment works 86% of the time and your suggested treatment has a 49% failure rate. (As awkward as this sounds, there are people who gain so much confidence researching online, they say things like this to their doctors! This would limit healthy discussion with any physician!) The best approach is to ask your doctor questions based on the information you gathered. Use online information to know what questions to ask, so you and your doctor may have more productive discussions about the condition and treatment options.
As a Baby Boomer and Patient Advocate for The Greatest Generation, I believe we can no longer be submissive and obedient to every utterance from our doctors. Today, we are PARTNERS with our physicians in our own or loved one’s care. Any quality physician who feels likewise will appreciate an involved (and respectful) patient/family member/advocate.
Brenda Avadian, MA, conducts a workshops entitled, Rx for Communicating with your Doctor for family caregivers and Rx for Communicating with your Patient for medical professionals. For more information see items 5 and 6 at Speaking Engagements, Seminars, and Workshops
Please be sure to read Part I: Should you bring a friend or relative with you to the doctor’s office?
Brenda Avadian, MA
Print copies of this and share with your clients or fellow support group members.
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© 2008 Brenda Avadian, MA (Original blog post)