Sunday, March 24, 2013

Do you trust a doctor who Googles?

I've always thought it dangerous to self diagnose, but today I'm reassessing!

This weekend I was in New York and have been sick as a dog. I fell foul of the FirstRain Flu (good alliteration eh!) which was been going through my California office like a hot knife through butter. A week after my nasty cold symptoms turned into a deep cough, and four days (and one late night cross country flight) after that my cough was getting deeper every day. I was doing a great Marlene Dietrich impersonation... and since I have some critical meetings and plan to cross the country twice more in the next week I decided it would be smart to go to the doctor (OK, I confess, my sister told me to).

So I used Yelp to find a walk in clinic called CityMD where the sales pitch is that no appointment is needed and you won't have to wait. To be fair everyone was reasonably competent, but the experience was unnerving.

This was the first time I have been to a new doctor where I did not have to write down my existing medications on the initial form. So when the doctor told me I have bronchitis (as I suspected) and I need an antibiotic I made sure he knew I take a drug called Pradaxa, and that he should look for interactions before prescribing (yes, I am sure he thought I was obnoxious).

Initially his very pretty, very young medical assistant starting looking on Google as he leaned over her, very close. For about 5 minutes she was searching and then she gave up and suggested he do the searching. For the next 10 minutes I watched him use Google, dropping into sites like eHealthMe, trying different combinations of Pradaxa and various antibiotics (while his young assistant whipped out her phone and started texting, she was clearly bored).

Towards the end he said "how do you spell penicillin? p-e-n-i-c-i...", then he found it studied it and decided to prescribe it. His reason - "it's the oldest and it seems to have the least interactions". Not very confidence inspiring.

This CityMD doctor is not the first to use Google. Now that I am home and checking out the interactions myself before I take the meds I find that 46% of doctors frequently use searching to understand symptoms and treatments. Somehow I imagined they'd have professional services to refer to, or they'd be in continuous education, but now I know! Next time, I don't need a doctor —I know when I have bronchitis after all —and I can use Google as well as the next man.

But the experience also reminded me of how much I appreciate my doctor back home who studies continuously and holds an astonishing amount of information about drugs in her head.

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