Medicine in the age of the internet

With a rapid explosion of accessible information on the internet, the practice and management of medicine has also dramatically shifted. Patients often use the internet to learn about medical condition, search for doctors, and to look up reviews about their medical providers. Doctors typically use the internet to provide information and otherwise communicate with new and established patients.

However, the wealth of information available could be at times confusing or even misguiding for many patients with no previous medical background. Unless you have a confirmed diagnosis by a medical professional and you know exactly the condition that you are suffering from, the great majority of information available in the internet actually has no relevance on your condition. Below are some tips on how to filter the information to get the best possible information.

Patients may often try to look up their symptoms, or even a presumed diagnosis, on varied searches to obtain more information. Many of the websites that offer such information are set up by individual doctors, and they offer one person’s view on any matter (including this website). Some other websites with medical information could be set up by patients undergoing specific medical treatment, or even groups of patients serving as a resource group. All of these websites, although trying to be helpful, are not peer reviewed, and therefore they provide medical information with a certain degree of bias. My recommendation is to obtain your medical information from peer reviewed websites such as WebMD or individual websites set up by national association of doctors in each area of specialty. Any information you find on these websites regarding specific symptoms or medical conditions generally meets the consensus of established medical practice, and has much better chance of being accurate and up-to-date.

There are also many review websites available on the internet. Some of these review individual doctors or medical practitioners, as well as hospitals and other entities. These could be very helpful for patients trying to find medical professionals who best fits their individual needs, and that have been proven to have organized offices with a good bedside manner. While reading these reviews, keep in mind that the great majority of patients undergoing medical treatment do not necessarily feel the need to write their own review for their medical care. Most people who feel compelled to write a medical review have had such an outstanding positive or negative experience that they feel the urge to share their experiences, but the average user may not feel the same degree of necessity to be expressive. Some websites like ZocDoc actually prompt users to review their medical professionals after their encounter, and such reviews are probably more representative of the sample of information available.

One last point I would like to make is that many patients might convince themselves of a diagnosis as they sort through the vast amount of medical information available. It is important to keep an open mind for when you finally come to see your doctor and let your medical professional make the accurate diagnosis with you.

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