Is There A Doctor In the House?

If you trust Google more than your doctor, then maybe it's time to switch doctors. [1]

HEALTH Do you use the Internet as a powerful tool for medical research or one to discredit your own symptoms in the eyes of medical professionals? The Internet can be a formidable reference for exploring information about various ailments. As is the case with most tools, whether it's an electric drill or precision laser, balanced skillful use is required for optimum benefit.

Why Some Prefer LCD Over PCP

Do you have primary care physician (PCP) trepidation? Does the high cost of visits deter doctor appointments? I am always surprised by the tally of charges from a 6-minute exam. It may total over $700 before health insurance discounts. The same services in an ER can cost three times a much as a scheduled office visit. For many, price is not a factor since their insurance plan requires little or no copayment. Others shave costs by waiting for hours at a county clinic.

Remember the days when one doctor — your doctor — listened intently to your concerns, asked about the wellbeing of family members, examined your throat with a tongue depressor, listened to your chest with a stethoscope, withdrew blood samples himself and later personally called you up on a rotary phone with lab results? Yea, that was a while ago.

With demands placed upon him by today's healthcare system to efficiently handle more patients, a doctor's bedside manner can appear contrived. He may briefly look you in the eye with a smile before laconically ordering blood tests, prescribing a pill with possible side effects, or referring you to a specialist. Patients might find the impersonal nature of today's brief visits off putting. [2]

When doctors routinely overbook or "squeeze in" non-scheduled appointments, patients can lose hours in the appropriately named waiting room or lab. Busy people can feel their time from other activities is more valuable than the copayment and not commensurate with the level of service received.

Don't Panic But Don't Delay

Perhaps you like to "doctor" yourself with home remedies and over-the-counter medications. For minor colds, scrapes or bruises, this can be wise and cost effective. However, OTC care for things like bronchitis or pneumonia can have serious consequences — especially when an untrained eye and ear can't determine the difference.

Conversely, visiting the doctor for every trivial thing from a hangnail to the common cold might convey to the health care provider that you are an alarmist who thinks everything is serious. Like the boy who cried wolf, this may make it difficult for your doctor to distinguish when complaints are serious.

Efficiency Can End Up Being a Symptom

Many people have a clothes hamper in which they accumulate garments destine for the cleaners. It's more efficient to take several pieces in one trip instead of one garment at a time. Similar rationale may be applied to doctor visits. Unfortunately, it often doesn't go over too well. A patient who arrives with complaints of rashes, headaches, chest congestion, erectile dysfunction, and fibromyalgia accumulated over several months may be viewed as one with Munchausen Syndrome. [3]

Using The Internet Wisely

A slowly increasing number of doctors are embracing social media. Many more remain wary. [4,5] They are wise to stop short of diagnosing patients they cannot see or people with whom they have established no medical history. Sometimes the difference between a medical emergency and OTC medication is the sound of a breath through a stethoscope, which currently cannot be heard via the Web (though there's an app for that).

Health insurers Aetna and Cigna have announced that they will pay for online physician visits, and patients will be required to contribute a copayment. [5,6] Both insurers partner with RelayHealth, a company that enables "web visits" through services that include online medical chart storage, online appointment scheduling, automated triage [7] interviews, online prescription center and a payment/collections/insurance filing center.

The Internet is full of sites that describe symptoms for various diseases. One problem is that misinformation is more plentiful than the gems. Another problem is that many illnesses have overlapping symptoms. Hence, in the absence of lab work, a diagnosis or cure that seems probable to the layperson may be quickly dismissed by someone with medical pathology background.

For addressing medical ailments, the Internet can be your friend but shouldn't replace your doctor. Try to develop a symbiosis between doctor visits and personal research.

  • Online triage might be used to determine the seriousness of your symptoms.
  • Search Internet to locate nearby health facility specializing in required treatment.
  • Your doctor may encourage you to lookup more information about your illness online.
  • Health provider my provide doctor-patient email portal (i.e. kp.org).
  • Lookup disease management and medication contraindications online.
  • Manage healthcare insurance benefits through online service provider.
  • Some patients choose to share ailment resolution to encourage others.
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Not everything you read on the Internet is true. Even valid anecdotes may omit details hindering similar results in your own personal situation. For these reasons, unless there's a doctor in your house, what is available in this vast resource might best be used to prepare for a discussion with a knowledgeable professional rather than self-diagnose and treat.

Tags: hypochondria

References
  1. Jadelr and Cristina Cordova quotationspage.com
  2. Enjoy the Dreaded Office Visit. ClinicalPosters.com, Health News
  3. Munchausen Syndrome. my.clevelandclinic.org
  4. Why social media gives your doctor an ulcer. news.cnet.com
  5. More doctors make house calls online. The Columbus Dispatch. dispatch.com
  6. Web Visits on the Rise – Doctors Practicing Medicine on the Internet thelifeledger.com
  7. Healthcare's Online Triage. ClinicalPosters.com, Health News