Is it just me, or do others find this article to be
the Patient Is a Googler
By SCOTT HAIG
Thursday, Nov. 08, 2007
We had never met, but as we talked on the phone I knew she
was Googling me. The way she drew out her conjunctions, just a little,
that was the tip off — stalling for time as new pages loaded.
It was barely audible, but the soft click-click of the keyboard in the
background confirmed it. Oh, well, it’s the information age. Normally,
she’d have to go through my staff first, but I gave her an
Every doctor knows patients like this. They’re called “brainsuckers.”
By the time they come in, they’ve visited many other docs already
— somehow unable to stick with any of them. They have many
complaints, which rarely translate to hard findings on any objective
tests. They talk a lot. I often wonder, while waiting for them to
pause, if there are patients like this in poor, war-torn countries
where the need for doctors is more dire…
You have to read the whole thing to get the full effect. My
take on the latter point is this: if complaints don’t translate into
objective test findings, it is because the doctor is looking in the
wrong place, or the doctor needs better tests…
Sometimes, patients need to be taught how to be good reporters.
Most can learn, and are happy to do so. Yes, it
takes time. But as a physician, your time is what you are
selling. Don’t resent people for wanting your product.
Perhaps they could be taught to use the time more
effectively, but again, most people are happy to learn. It is not fundamentally different than teaching someone how to use an asthma inhaler.
If a physician finds him/herself calling the patient ugly names, then
it is time for a vacation.
I remember the first time a patient used the Internet to look things up
before the first appointment. I thought it was great.
It actually saved me time, rather than wasting it.
Nowadays, it is commonplace, and it still is a time saver.
Sure, I sometimes feel like a broken record, explaining why
the term “chemical imbalance” is misleading, or why the published
mechanism of action of an antidepressant is not very important.
But I would much rather have people ask about this things,
and get some clarification, as opposed to not asking, then wondering
why there is a discrepancy between what I recommend, and what people on
the message boards are talking about.
As a physician, one always must remember: it is not your own body you
are treating. It is someone else’s body. It belongs