What Your Patients Are Doing Online and Why You Should Engage Them as Partners in Care

February 26, 2009 at 7:30 am 2 comments

I wrote the cover story of Tufts Medicine, Winter 2009, with Dr. Janey Pratt, a surgeon at Mass. General Hospital. The article looks at patient use of the Internet from the physician perspective. The article concludes:

Online resources can help your patients become better educated about medical topics, more confident and comfortable with you and more compliant with treatment. As Anthony Schlaff, director of the M.P.H. program at [Tufts University School of Medicine], notes, “At its best, the Internet is one more tool in the partnership between a physician and patient.” [Bruce] Auerbach, the Massachusetts Medical Society president, couldn’t agree more. “Given that patients are going online,” he says, “the best thing to do is engage them as partners in care.”

The full article can be read at Dr. Google: Your Patients, the Internet, and You.

Entry filed under: health, online health communities. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

The Doctor as the Second Opinion and the Internet as the First Web Strategies for Health Communication

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. M. Drago  |  May 27, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I read an excerpt of your statements on Mike Carruthers’ http://www.somethingyoushould know.net. If I may, I would like to give you a view from the patient’s side of the court on the internet searches for medical information.
    First of all, most doctors are not the least bit interested in a patient bringing in a printout from the internet. Yes, they will give you, as a researcher, lip service about encouraging “patient education”. But their immediate verbal respone plus body language will be negative to the patient. I have tried just asking them if the information I have found was accurate or if they have ever heard of this procedure or that drug. Patients see the doctor as the “expert”, but that doesn’t mean we expect him/her to know everything about everything. With the internet, patients can see for themselves how very much medical knowledge/information is out there for any one doctor to have to absorb.
    Remember, when you tell people to “talk to your doctor”, a lot of doctors see that as an unnecessary use of his/her time. Their focus is very obviously getting in and out in the proscribed 10 minutes per patient window. Even half undressed on a cold exam table, we can sense this.
    And I disagree that patients are using their internet searches to “determine how current their physician’s knowledge is”. That seems to occur as a result of the doctor’s reaction to what we, as patients, are bringing to show them.
    Since you teach in a medical school, perhaps that is a golden opportunity to educate the new generation of doctors about this. We patients would greatly appreciate it.
    Thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts on this matter.

  • 2. Pilgrimtinker  |  March 1, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Hi Lisa,
    The full article is great, I especially like the discussion of health literacy and encouragement for physicians to explore with patients about what they’ve found online.

    Many patients main source of health information is the internet, and they may bring with them factual misunderstandings, unwise treatment demands and unspoken fears. Librarians can be a resource for patients and consumers, guiding them to reliable sources and providing them with a framework for understanding and assessing health websites and research they find online.


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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu


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