We’ve known for years that people have been going online for health information. An article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle discusses some of the more promising companies.
WebMD is probably the more popular health consumer content company. Some 80 percent of American adults – 10 million every day – have used the Internet for health information, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ study. I’m sure you’ve all had patients coming in with material pulled off the web, or have called back with questions after having done their own searches. Most gain reassurance from material on the web. Whether because they have the time to research and read on their own, or whether the information can confirm what you are doing, consumers have access to many good – and many not so good – sources of information.
We are now seeing companies that are modeled along the lines of social networking sites, such as Facebook, and YouTube. ICYou.com, a product of
DailyStrength.org hosts some 500 “communities” – discussion groups where people can talk about what ails them, share information, resources, advice (yes, good and bad). It can be reassuring, it can place doubt. But it’s there – people have always sought out informal advice, and this escalates things to a grander scale.
Takeaway: It’s not a question of whether we particularly like these sites or not. The question is: since they’re here, what do physicians do?
Action: Take the lead is being the source of information for patients. Complile key websites with good information that you can refer patients to. You should have handouts available in your office, whether commercially produced or developed by you. At all times, anything you hand out should have a professional look, and include a block with your name and contact information. You should also have a website with these links as well.
From time to time, take a look at some of these sites and others that your patients may mention to you. The best way to give good advice and guidance is to understand where patients are coming from, and what they know – or think they know.