Everyone’s an Expert

From the spring meeting of the American Thyroid Association  in Minneapolis  

During this meeting, Dr. Linda Barbour gave a talk on the difficult subject of managing patients with Graves’ disease during pregnancy.  Something she said about the Internet really caught my attention because it’s a theme that I keep running into at medical meetings.  She was describing a patient in her mid-20s, who was already on thyroid medication when she became pregnant. “She’s really scared.  She’s gotten on the Internet and she thinks that she’s going to have a baby with all kinds of terrible problems,” said Dr. Barbour, who is a professor of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes and Maternal-Fetal-Medicine at the University of  Colorado.

Courtesy of Flickr user Jenny Lee Silver (CC)

 The advent of the Internet and broadband means that lots of patients have access to reams of medical information–some of it evidence-based from renowned medical and health organizations and some of it complete bunk and quackery.  The question is whether the average American has the critical thinking skills to evaluate all of these sources and sift the wheat from the chaff.  The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.

 Still, there are plenty of folks out there who believe that they are experts after a couple of nights spent reading anything that they can find on the Internet about a health condition. They believe they know as much as physicians and researchers, who have years of education and experience with that condition and who have peer-reviewed literature on their side.

 In principle, an informed patient is a good idea.  But can an informed patient in the Internet age be a hindrance to physicians as well?  Is a little knowledge really a dangerous thing?

 We want to hear from you.  Has the Internet changed the patients that you see?  In what ways?

 —Kerri Wachter, @knwachter on Twitter

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Filed under Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Family Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Medical Genetics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Practice Trends

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