Can you help me Dr Google?
SummaryWith Google now being 10 years old, a leading medical protection organisation is highlighting the increasing trend towards patient using the search engine for online self-diagnosis.
"incorrect self-diagnosis and misplaced patient expectations"
Dr Stephanie Bown,director of policy and communications at the Medical Protection Society (MPS) said: “a vast spectrum of information available online has given patients a greater opportunity to explore the possibility of self-diagnosis. The downside is that difficulties can arise from lay interpretation of potentially complex medical information and terminology, and the variable quality of the information available. These factors can contribute to both incorrect self-diagnosis and misplaced patient expectations.”
“GPs are faced with the additional challenges of managing these expectations as they revisit diagnosis and treatment options. These challenges need to be handled sensitively in order to avoid precipitating patient dissatisfaction or complaints.”
More than 1 billion people worldwide now have access to the internet, and 8 out of 10 use Google to find websites. Dr Bown further commented “whilst access to medical information has its benefits to both patients and their doctors it is important that patients are encouraged by their doctors to understand the limitations of online information, and how to use it to best effect.”
As the use of the internet continues to grow, the message from MPS to GPs is “that the internet can be a very useful tool in promoting a mutually beneficial discussion between the doctor and patient about a condition and its treatment and the information available can help improve patients’ knowledge and understanding. However, patients may not necessarily declare the information that they have received or may make a self-diagnosis based on incorrect information. It is important that the doctor doesn’t feel pressurised into providing treatment they don’t feel is appropriate or in the patient’s best interests. A doctor should never prescribe outside the limits of their own knowledge and competence, and remains responsible for all prescribing decisions even when pressurised by patients” Dr Bown added.
The Medical Protection Society is the leading provider of comprehensive professional indemnity and expert advice to doctors, dentists and health professionals around the world.
We are a mutual, not-for-profit organisation offering more than 250,000 members help with legal and ethical problems that arise from their professional practice. This includes clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal-accident inquiries.
Fairness is at the heart of how we conduct our business. We actively protect and promote the interests of members and the wider profession. Equally, we believe that patients who have suffered harm from negligent treatment should receive fair compensation. We promote safer practice by running risk management and education programmes to reduce avoidable harm.
MPS is not an insurance company. The benefits of membership are discretionary - this allows us the flexibility to provide help and support even in unusual circumstances.