Warning — vent ahead.

I’m not even sure where to start. Government cutbacks aside, I am finding it increasingly frustrating dealing with patients who trust the Internet more than me.  I do not presume to know everything about medicine, there are certainly times I am a bit perplexed by a patient and I am fully capable of admitting it. But I am the one that went to school for medical training.  Why, suddenly, does that mean nothing to people?

The thing about family medicine is that for most things, taking a “wait and see” approach is totally reasonable.  Sometimes a condition doesn’t present itself right away and at times, monitoring symptoms for a few days to see if they evolve is quite reasonable.  Of course, I’m not talking about obvious conditions (chest pain, shortness of breath, unilateral leg swelling).  Most patients are okay with the watchful waiting approach.  But there are a few who decide to take it upon themselves to do their own “research”, then call me back with questions.  “But this website said that you’re supposed to treat immediately.” “But this website says it’s this kind of medication, not the one you prescribed.” Really? Well, if you trust that website so much, you don’t need a physician then, do you?

I have no issue with the patient who respectfully asks me about something they read “online”, and why it might be different from what I suggested.  It’s the patient who speaks with the undertone of “you’re wrong because I read it online” that really gets my goat.  There seems to be a growing lack of respect for physicians and it’s really beginning to irritate me.  Just because you read something online, doesn’t mean it’s true!  There is no policing of information on the Internet.  Readers have to be savvy; you have to know how to cross-reference material; you have to know what is a reputable site and what isn’t.  You have to understand the physiology and biochemistry of the human body.  Lets face it, most people don’t.  So it really boggles my mind the audacity with which certain patients talk to me.  I would never speak to a professional, be it a lawyer, engineer, professor, or doctor, with that kind of attitude.  Clearly, that’s just me.

And don’t even get me started on the parents in my practice who don’t vaccinate their children.  That’s a whole entire other post.

There will come a time in certain patient relationships I have where I am going to have to put my foot down.  Either you trust me, or you don’t. If you don’t, you need to find a new physician.  I am getting really tired of this shit.

And since I brought it up, here are some reputable Internet sites for medical information.




Public Health Agency of Canada

National Library of Medicine

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

9 thoughts on “Respect

  1. I like that you included reputable sites. I think a lot of patience don’t understand that most medical sites aren’t held to any standards. It seems to me that doctoring in the internet age requires a delicate balance. It is in everyone’s best interest to have patients that care enough about their health to do research and ask good questions. But, you’re right…tone is everything. Wanting to be an informed “consumer” is fabulous…but considering a google search equivalent to med school is clearly silly.

    • Indeed. I have no problem with a patient bringing in something off the ‘net to discuss with me. I welcome it most times. Sadly, I don’t write about these encounters.

  2. I was just contemplating yesterday if the two problems are intertwined – people assuming that google is just as good as a family doctor and the government thinking that they can cut back pay, ’cause maybe they feel the same way?
    I am trained to an extent most people I feel can’t fathom. I worked from high school – I got more out of even that education than most people do. Then I went to undergrad for four years, taking tough honors courses, not just keg parties. I went to medical school, trying to absorb thousands of dollars worth of text books and scouring the internet for the best latest research, because information updates every second and the text books are only so useful. Then I put in three years of 80 hour work weeks. Have these people questioning me ever worked one 80 hour work week, let alone 3 years worth?
    Excuse me, from the second I lay eyes on you, years of training are concentrated on assessing you for three million signs of disease – in a minute I have been cross referencing what I see in front of me with thousands (yes I’m young, but just in training I documented THOUSANDS) of patients I seen before, years of education. No computer could do what I do – not yet. I’ve frequently known that someone has cancer without so much as touching them, just watching them walk into my room. Show some respect!!!
    puff puff… could rant more… must get back to charting…

  3. I do google. I admit it. But whenever I approach a medical professional I tell them that right away, and then let them know why I am concerned. That way I have said my piece and then let them take over. I remember telling my midwife that I thought that there was a chance that I had Obstetric Cholestasis and gave her my symptoms, and she appreciated my thoroughness in my research. I didn’t want to call her unless I thought that there was a chance that some form of intervention was necessary. I mean lets be serious here for a moment, if you look up practically anything you automatically have cancer as a possible diagnosis, which clearly does not end up being the ailment most of the time. This goes to show that taking the time to investigate and getting multiple references can be helpful and let you know if you need to seek help. The people who do the research don’t are just irritating. 🙂

  4. I don’t get the lack of respect some people have, it’s like they’ve forgotten how to interact with humans in a social setting. I think the immediacy of the information accessible on the internet makes people ultra impatient for results. I know I’ve googled a symptom or two and then become convinced that I have one rare disease or another. Still, fear is no reason to be rude and disrespectful.

    • Thanks Lisa. I’m afraid this kind of thing is only going to increase though. I have already seen a big change in the almost-7 years I’ve been working.

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