Having been diagnosed as Type-1 Diabetic at quite a young age (4 years old, to be precise), I’ve had just about every type of doctor imaginable. I’ve had the detached cynics, who see their patients but are just trying to scrape past the retirement line. I’ve had the eternal optimists, who seem to go out of their way to have you call them by first name and focus on being a friend more than a doctor. I’ve also seen the medical dominatrix types, who basically make you feel like shit and a failure if your last A1C isn’t absolutely spot on. So from a patient standpoint, I’ve pretty much seen it all, Diabetes or not.
There has been a silent tipping of the scales taking place over the past twenty years. It’s been subtle and if you haven’t been paying attention, it’s snuck up on you without notice. I don’t need to tell anybody that waiting to see a medical professional can be excruciatingly frustrating. Increased wait times, doctor availability and sometimes feeling as though you’re being ignored and rushed out the door can all lead to bad experiences and scare you off from going to a doctor, even when you need one.
This tipping of the scale basically involves the internet. I’ve never hidden the fact that the internet and I share a rather love/hate relationship. I admit that I absolutely love the internet for the purposes of education and research, but I loath the effect that social media and the unnecessary propagation of disinformation has damaged our society. But I would be lying if I said that the internet hasn’t been a thorn in the side of most medical professionals. Most doctors absolutely hate “Dr. Google”. And why is that? Wouldn’t it make sense that a doctor would want to get all the help they can to ensure the best diagnosis? Apparently not. And there are reasons behind that.
First of all, unless you ARE a trained diagnostician, you can do more harm than good by going online to seek out the cause of your symptoms. Especially if your symptoms are vague. For example, having frequent headaches does not necessarily mean you’re having migraines. Online symptom checkers can be a real pain in the ass for doctors, especially if you arrive and “challenge” your doctor with a half dozen possible diagnoses that you’ve found online.
According to an article posted on Forbes.com by Robert Glatter, MD, a study was performed four years ago that compared the results of online symptom checking when compared to visiting an actual doctor. He wrote, “When doctors in the study were armed with patients’ medical history and symptoms, and then compared the information entered into a symptom checker, doctors arrived at the correct diagnosis 72% of the time, as opposed to 34% for the apps.”
I don’t know about you, but 72% accuracy doesn’t make me feel all that comfortable when confronted with a possible illness that could be treated by way of medications or other treatments. But it’s a hell of an improvement over the 32% that you would get from using an app. The article goes on to say, “And 84% of the time, doctors provided the correct diagnosis in their top three choices, compared with only 51% for the symptom checkers.”
Here’s the online article, if you wanna give it a read. It’s pretty interesting: (https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2016/10/13/doctors-beat-online-symptom-checkers-new-study-finds/#246af81e2d44)
The take-home lesson here is if you want to go on a reputable, peer-reviewed medical site such as WebMD or the Mayo Clinic to look something up, such as Diabetes… What is it? What causes it? Can it be prevented? Etc… That’s fine! The problem is if you go online to find out why your legs might be turning blue and assume you have deep vein thrombosis, when all you did was fail to properly wash your new jeans before wearing them for the first time. This is where doctors and health professionals get pissed and frustrated.
The other side of the coin is no brighter. Because of people’s tendencies to look symptoms up on the internet before consulting their doctor, many medical professionals have started shirking or ignoring what their patients may bring up upon arrival. Don’t even get me started on a doctor’s reaction if you utter the words, “I looked up” or “I read online that…” That’s a surefire way to start a verbal battle of wills. Most medical clinics have extended wait times and many medical professionals have even started limiting the number of things that a patient can bring up during any one visit.
In some respects, it’s rather hard to blame them. The average doctor spends well over a decade of study and training to actually BECOME a doctor. So if you walk in and presume to have diagnosed your problem already by spending two minutes on Google, it only makes sense that they may be offended and dismiss your thoughts.
The best approach would be to ask your doctor questions. Don’t necessarily bring up your online search, but feel free to ask your doctor if what you found is possible and why he or she believes that it’s not. This keeps you involved in the diagnosis process and doesn’t make the doctor feel offended or as though you’re trying to tell them their job. If you feel as though your concerns are being ignored, then say so. And be certain to exercise your right to a second opinion if you aren’t comfortable with what’s being done to help you.
When I was a kid, I literally never waited more than 15 minutes to see my doctor. Once in, I’d be greeted with a handshake and we’d talk about how my Diabetes was doing, how I was managing with my current medications and what life and family issues may be affecting all of it. Nowadays, seeing my personal physician includes well over an hour’s wait, followed by a five minute visit that usually doesn’t even involve reviewing my most recent blood results or Diabetic issues. Times have changed.
As the world continues to turn, we all have a tendency to turn towards the World Wide Web for answers. After all, we have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. And although all the information required to become a doctor may be available on the internet, it doesn’t mean you have the skills or knowledge to use it. As far as doctors go, they could probably stand to lighten up a touch and be willing to listen more. Because as time passes, the growing trend of doctors using online resources is increasing, as well. Food for thought… ☯