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We Self-Diagnose Our Car, Why Not Our Health?

Posted on July 29, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today my wife went out to move my car and came back to tell me that my battery was dead. This is a common thing in Las Vegas since it’s so dry it kills batteries regularly. However, I was intrigued that my wife with no training as a mechanic had diagnosed the health of my car and rendered a diagnosis. I’ll be going to check that indeed it’s the case. If jumping my car doesn’t last, then I’ll have to take the battery in where they’ll run the battery tester to confirm her diagnosis.

When I take the battery in, the mechanic won’t question my diagnosis. He won’t feel like I haven’t trained long enough to know if the battery might be the problem. He’ll run the tests to verify what I’m saying, but he’ll work collaboratively with me to fix the problem.

Why is it so different in healthcare?

In reality, it’s not that different. We’ve been self-diagnosing in healthcare for a long time. There’s a whole industry of over the counter medications that anyone can go and take to treat their health condition with no doctor involvement at all. We self diagnose and self treat with no intervention from the doctor at all. Why then do so many doctors (not all of them) balk at the idea of the patient working to understand their issue and identify their diagnosis?

I think there’s two reasons that this scares doctors. First, a minority of patients have ruined it for the rest of us. Some patients go into their doctor and are completely disrespectful. They treat the doctor as someone who should just give them whatever they want and whatever they ask for. It’s shameful and a few of these “bad apples” will no doubt make a doctor gun shy when the next patient comes in respectfully talking about their own efforts to diagnose their issues. We can’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

Second, the tools we have available today have opened up so many new worlds for patients to be able to be more informed about possible health issues. This starts with Dr. Google which is literally available to us at our fingertips or even at our beck and call (ie. Siri, Alexa, Google, and Galaxy). It continues with this wave of health sensors and health apps which help us better understand our own health and possible health issues we may be experiencing. Both of these are only going to get better. Before we might diagnose a fever but with new technologies we might eventually be able to know if we have diabetes or some other more complex disease. It’s not hard to see how patients will know more than doctors about their own individual health. This is scary, because with increased information and data we can do so much more. However, with that power also comes new risks.

Going back to the car analogy. A dead battery is something pretty easy to diagnose in a car. I’ve even had enough experience with cars that I could probably diagnose an alternator problem. However, while I could diagnose the problem, I certainly am not capable of fixing the problem. Plus, it’s possible that the mechanic might replace the alternator and there are still problems or I might suggest that it’s a problem with the alternator, but they find something else which is really causing the problem because they understand how a car works better than me.

We’re going to find a very similar experience in healthcare. We may be able to eventually know that we’re a diabetic, but we’ll need the healthcare system and doctors working collaboratively with us to actually fix the problem. Plus, we may think we’re a diabetic, but once we see the doctor we’ll find out that what appeared to be diabetes was something else that had similar symptoms. That’s ok and normal. Much like we wouldn’t freak out at our mechanic for finding a different diagnosis, we shouldn’t freak out at our doctor.

The reality is that healthcare must be a collaboration between patient and doctor. Neither should feel so arrogant that they don’t listen to or disrespect the other. Patients should present the doctor with their symptoms, experiences, and findings so that the doctor has as much information about your health needs as possible. Doctors should be excited to have a patient that’s deeply interested in their health. Together they can work through the findings to help everyone understand the best path forward and why something the patient found might not be accurate or appropriate for them.

The very best doctors I know love this type of collaboration with their patients. They also hate when patients arrive in a disrespectful and arrogant way. We need to purge the later from the system so that they don’t ruin it for the rest of us and the doctors.

Dr. Google – Or at Least a WebMD Replacement

Posted on June 21, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’ve all heard the talk about Dr. Google and how it’s the first place many of us reach out to with are various medical issues. Well, Dr. Google (my term, not there’s) is stepping up their game even more with their most recent announcement. Here’s an excerpt of the changes to a Google search for symptoms:

So starting in the coming days, when you ask Google about symptoms like “headache on one side,” we’ll show you a list of related conditions (“headache,” “migraine,” “tension headache,” “cluster headache,” “sinusitis,” and “common cold”). For individual symptoms like “headache,” we’ll also give you an overview description along with information on self-treatment options and what might warrant a doctor’s visit. By doing this, our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional.

Lest you think this is just Google, they have worked with some actual doctors on their results:

We worked with a team of medical doctors to carefully review the individual symptom information, and experts at Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic evaluated related conditions for a representative sample of searches to help improve the lists we show.

Although, Google did follow that up with a big disclaimer that they’re just a source of information and that it shouldn’t replace consulting a doctor for medical advice. Yeah, Google’s not quite ready to take on the liability of actually giving medical advice. So, take their results with that grain of salt.
Dr. Google
Of course, Google doesn’t have to worry about it. Millions already take their health-related search results with a grain of salt. I’d really say that this update is an algorithm tweak and an interface tweak more than it being a real change to the way Google does things.

If I’m WebMD, I’d be a bit worried by these tweaks by Google. Doesn’t what Google’s doing sound a lot like WebMD? However, I’m sure Google sends a ton of traffic WebMD’s way, so they won’t likely complain about things. At least not for now.

I’m sure most doctors’ reaction to this is likely covered by this coffee cup:
Dr Google - Google Search Replacement for Medical Degree
In response to this mug, e-Patient Dave provides an alternate and important perspective on the balance between an informed patient versus an arrogant, disrespectful patient. Like most things in life, it’s what you do with the information or tool that matters. It can be used for good or bad depending on how you approach it.

All of this said, the patient is becoming more empowered every day. Consumer driven healthcare is here to stay and Dr. Google is going to be one important tool in that toolbox for many patients.

Do Patients Trust Their Doctor or Health Related Websites More?

Posted on February 22, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Philips has really been killing it on Twitter leading up to HIMSS 2016 in Las Vegas. Plus, they’ve been making a number of big announcements in the healthcare space as well. While they’ve always been quite big in the radiology and device space, it’s interesting to see Philips enter other healthcare IT spaces. For example, Philips recently announced a collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer a secure data recover service.

Philips’ announcements aside, I was intrigued by this image and tweet that Philips recently shared:
Philips Health - Trust Doctors or Websites

I was trying to reconcile this data with the all too common high percentages of people that are searching Dr. Google for health information. First, it’s worth noting that it says “health-related websites” and not a search result found on Google. I wonder how different this percentage would be if they’d asked if they trust a search engine result for health information. I could see many not trusting the former, but many trusting the later.

The other thing I think applies is that even though we read a health related website, that doesn’t mean we trust it. I think many of us treat health related websites with the “trust but verify” approach. We’ve become very sophisticated at triangulating data across websites, social media, and yes, our doctor. We’re no longer simplistic creatures that blindly go to the doctor and trust whatever they say. We triangulate what we hear from all of these sources and apply a trust value to each.

In this complex calculation, I think that most of us do trust our doctor generally more than what we read from our friends on social media and on health-related websites. We should. Doctors spent a lot of time in school and have a lot more experience treating patients. Hopefully, our outside research will deepen the discussion and trust we have with the doctor.

I recently read an incredible quote from Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson (Better known as @SeattleMamaDoc):

If it offended me, I would be a total moron! I think that any physician that would be upset by a patient going online doing personal research and bringing those care points to the visit really better question what’s going on in their mind.

I’d argue that doctors that don’t want you collaborating in your care and researching out your health likely shouldn’t be trusted. I also feel it’s important to point out that this doesn’t mean that the patient should be disrespectful or arrogant or mean to their doctor who disagrees with their research. Outside information is not an excuse for being a jerk. However, patients should use every resource they have to make sure they receive the best care possible and the answers to the questions they have about their care.

The best way a doctor can improve a patients trust in them is to collaborate with the patient in their care. Patients generally trust their doctor more than online health resources. However, that could change if doctors don’t see patients as collaborators in their care.