Tips & Advice

From Dr. Liz Herself

February 24, 2017
Watch out for Dr. Google!
Doctor Google

There was a long line of people waiting to get into Heaven.

Jane was next in line to talk to St. Peter at the pearly gates, when suddenly a guy wearing a white lab coat and a stethoscope around his neck strides right up to the front and pushes his way in first.

“Hey!” Jane says to St. Peter. “How come that guy thinks he can cut in line just because he is a doctor?”

St. Peter says, shaking his head, “That’s not a doctor. That’s God. He just thinks he’s a doctor.”

Having been a doctor for almost 27 years, I remember over 10 years ago when people started asking me if I had seen one article or another on the Internet related to a symptom or condition we were evaluating or treating.

At that time I would simply say, “Sure I’ll read that! Can you print it out for me and bring it in?” I knew it would be time-consuming to look at the references my patients were asking me to look at, but I knew I needed to take this time to do this research with them and giving my expert opinion of what they had found.

(I also thought I was being clever to put the work on my patient to get the article to me.)

I also quickly realized that the boundaries of my own knowledge needed to expand so I could at least comment on the giant amount of information starting to be available directly to my patients.

When was the last time YOU looked up a symptom on the Internet? Stuffy nose? Sore elbow? Swollen toe? I’ll bet you a dollar that the list of diseases you might be suffering from includes heart attack or cancer.

If it’s so scary, why DO people look up their symptoms on the Internet?

I frequently find that people do this kind of research on themselves because they can’t find a doctor who will take the time to listen carefully to them, do the right evaluation, then be able to explain what’s going on.

There were (and continue to be) some doctors at the time who felt personally offended by anyone seeking their own knowledge that did not come from the “all-knowing” authority that is the doctor (see one of my favorite jokes above).

I cannot explain why (especially considering that both of my parents are doctors) I have never felt like my role as a doctor was to be the sole source of knowledge for my patients’ care, or that my instructions are gospel not to be questioned.

I have always felt that my job is to be in partnership with my patients, to be their personal detective to figure out what is causing their dis-ease, and to explore treatment options together.

(In fact, I have lost a couple of patients over the years because they actually wanted a bossy doctor who will tell them what to do so they don’t have to think about it. I am not the right doctor for someone who wants that!)

For over 5 years now, I have a computer in the room with me when I am seeing my patients. If we have a question, we look it up together, right on the spot. If it will take more time than we have that day, or if they have information to send me, they email me links to easily follow and comment on what they are finding out in Internet-land.

I always say, “I’ve never seen anybody go on the Internet and feel better.”

If you don’t have a doctor who works with you and validates your concerns, answers your questions, and treats you with dignity and respect, look for another doctor.

Watch out for Dr. Google; she is a mixed blessing.

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