Friday, December 07, 2007

The Patient Who Knew Too Much

Dr. Jay Parkinson is unimpressed with the ready availability of medical information on the internet for patients (courtesy of Kevin, MD. I myself have to agree. However, there have been times when a patient by virtue of his or her own net-surfing has brought useful info to me about their case.

But on balance, these situations are vastly outnumbered by those where a little knowledge is a time-consuming and occasionally dangerous thing. For example, I couldn't possibly count the times when patients have stopped taking drugs I recommended because they "read" that they had side-effects.

Sometimes concerns are raised by what a patient (or his well-meaning family) has found that just has to make me smile. One time, I was rounding on an elderly man I'd admitted to the hospital the day before. He did quite well overnight.

From his bed, he handed me a sheet of paper with the words hemolytic uremic syndrome on it. "What's this?" I asked.

"Well, my granddaughter got onto the internet..."

My heart fell. "And?"

"She said I need to be sure and ask you if I don't have hemolytic uremic syndrome."

I smiled benevolently. "Mr. Stevenson, that's a very good thought but I have a few problems with that diagnosis. First, you're not hemolyzing. Second, you're not uremic. Other than that..."

"Well then what DO I have doctor?"

"Pneumonia and you're going home tomorrow."

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Ford... may I respectfully suggest that patients are poised and ready and able to use the internet -- in most cases, they just don't know how to do it effectively to learn more about their diagnoses.

I come to this conclusion having corrected my own misdiagnosis in 2004 through use of the internet. In fact, I was told I had an aggressive and rare lymphoma and would be dead in six months if I didn't start chemo immediately. Turns out I had no cancer at all.

Now I teach patients how to find information on the internet, in the library, through professional journals, etc that can be useful to them, and how to work with their doctors more appropriately.

I find blogs and articles written by doctors quite frequently complaining about "internet rangers" -- those patients who look for medical information online. Might I suggest that a far more useful use of that energy be put to teaching patients how to use the energy to create win-wins for patients and their doctors?

You work in academia. You are in a perfect place to make this happen. What a win-win it could be!

Trisha Torrey
and Patient Empowerment Guide at /

December 14, 2007 8:46 AM  
Blogger The Medicine Man said...


See my response to your cogent points here.

December 14, 2007 1:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home