Dr Google will see you now
So you’ve trawled the internet, dug deep into a bunch of reputable websites, and you’re 100% certain of your ‘diagnosis’. Now, all that remains, is a trip to your GP to get the tests or medication for the rare and terrifying condition you just know you have.
Well - not so fast...
Technology has brought some extraordinary advances to medicine, and continues to offer a great deal of promise in enhancing some communications between health care providers and patients. But there’s still nothing quite like a physical examination and face to face talk to get the best diagnosis.
It takes a lot more than a symptom checklist to get it right, which is part of the reason your GP or nurse practitioner spent years studying. There’s your own, and your family health history, which feed into the equation, along with interactions with any medications or treatments you have been prescribed.
While Dr Google may be fast, he or she is more likely to err on the side of caution, leading to many scary false alarms. In the interests of not giving false reassurances they are more likely to label your condition dire to encourage you to see a health professional.
Still that doesn’t mean the information you find online doesn’t have a place in the consultation room. Your general practice team is all for anything that helps you get better educated about how to stay well, take care of a chronic condition, or get care when you need it. But like everything else in health care, the best results come from working in partnership.
The relationship with your general practice team is a very critical partnership when it comes to your health. They are usually the first person you see when something isn’t right, and the health professionals you see most of to manage any long-term conditions on a long-term basis. They are also the people to turn to to stay as well as possible.
A lot has changed since the days when doctors were seen as all-knowing gods, and patients expected to just do as they are told. Today’s GP would rather consult than direct, and discuss than dictate. Not only is it their preferred way of working, but it’s written into the New Zealand Health and Disability Code of Rights, which protects all consumers of these services in New Zealand.
Just as your GP won’t tell you what to do, your partnership means you won’t want to be telling him or her what to do, either.
So before you front up with those URLs and printouts, have a think about the kind of conversation you want to have with your health professional.
There are some great ideas here from a US doctor on how to get the best out of your Dr Google/Dr Real Life encounter.
Also remember to:
Remember, Dr Google tends to over diagnose the more scary conditions because websites want to make sure they don’t falsely overlook rare and serious diagnoses. Allowing your GP to go back to the basics of your symptoms and story can often lead you to arrive together at a much simpler, less serious diagnosis.
A lot of people make a visit to their GP terrified by dramatic internet stories that they have cancer or a rare autoimmune disorder, but leave much happier with a common, curable condition and a plan of treatment.