Impact Of Medical Information On The Internet
Musculoskeletal Consumer Review (MCR) took an opportunity to sit with Dr. Leslie Tay, a Resident Family Doctor from Karri Family Clinic to discuss about the impact of medical information on the internet. Dr. Tay is also a famous Singapore food blogger providing insights into the local hawker’s lives, Singapore’s food culture and trends in the development of Singapore hawker food. His food blog has been featured in various newspapers, including The Straits Times and Lian He Zao Bao.
MCR: With the recent increase in health-related websites, what are your views about health information on the Internet?
Dr Tay: There are a wealth of very good information on the net as well as a lot of nonsense, so the real difficulty is in being able to separate the wheat from the chaff. A lot of my patients get mis-informed rather than informed by the stuff they read on the net.
MCR: What challenges do you see as a healthcare provider, given the large number of health-related websites and the ease with which sites can be updated?
Dr Tay: Well, it is a matter of building a strong doctor – patient relationship. Once there is a relationship of trust, it is usually easy to educate patients. However, there are always some patients who are rather skeptical and would prefer to believe what they read on the internet rather than what their doctor tells them. On the other hand, the internet can sometimes be used to support whatever we tell the patients. We can point patients to helpful websites which can help supplement the information that we give to our patients. So it is imperative for the healthcare provider to be familiar with some of the more reliable sources of medical information on the net and direct our patients to read them instead of other less reliable websites.
MCR: Are you seeing more patients bringing in information on the Internet during their consultation?
Dr Tay: Surprisingly, this doesn’t happen all that often. The most common thing that I usually hear of is that patients say that they read in the forum about certain issues.
MCR: Has there been any incidence of these patients requesting for clinically inappropriate interventions? If yes, what do you think would be an appropriate response to the patients?
Dr Tay: Yes of course. Usually, patients will read the internet and make a self diagnosis and thus request inappropriate investigations or therapy. Again it is a matter of educating and convincing the patient about the condition he is really suffering from.
MCR: In your opinion, for patients who brought in information on the Internet, do you think that it made any difference to the quality of care the patients received?
Dr Tay: I think every patient is different and we need to cater the consultation to the patients’ needs. Patients who bring in information from the internet have a certain mindset and expectations. So they need to have those needs met in order to have a successful consultation. So the onus is really on the practitioner to cater to the needs of his patient.
MCR: What advice would you give to your patients when they come across any health-related websites?
Dr Tay: Well, whatever sounds too good to be true is usually not true. Always treat with suspicion any website that is trying to sell a certain product. Not everyone who places a “DR” in front of his name is a real medical practitioner, so you should always do a quick search on the internet to see his real credentials. And when in doubt, always check with your family doctor.
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