Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Googling Symptoms: How It Can Help Patients and Doctors - TIME

But to debate whether patients should or should not Google their symptoms (which a surprising number of doctors seem to enjoy engaging in) is an absurd exercise. Patients already are doing it, it is now a fact of normal patient behavior, and it will only increase as Internet technology becomes ever more ubiquitous. The average Joe has more health information at his fingertips — both credible and charlatan — than all the medical libraries ever built put together. So the real question is, What can professionals do to translate this phenomenon into better health for their patients and the public?

First, they can adopt strategies in health-care delivery and education that endorse the process of patient self-education. Shared clinical decisionmaking is an influential model for patient care now being promoted by researchers, educators and the federal government as a way to get patients to partner with their doctors to take an active role in making decisions about health care. The ideas behind this model were outlined in the late 1990s by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and were important enough to be included in the language of both the federal stimulus and health-reform laws. This model recognizes that many choices in medical care often involve complicated trade-offs. In this process, patients are encouraged to become informed of the nuances related to a health-care decision in advance of the doctor-patient encounter; and the Internet has naturally become the place where these tools can be found in the form of worksheets, videos and decision aids. (See "The Health IT Paradox: Why More Data Doesn't Always Mean Better Care.")

Click on the "resourcvia" link for the rest of the article.


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