Tips for dealing with the «google» patient

The digital world has forever changed the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors have gone from having passive patients to "google patients" - people who are always informed (sometimes poorly, but informed nonetheless), who come to the doctor's office to have the diagnosis they discovered on the internet confirmed, and who are much more aware of their rights than of their duties.
paciente google

| By Pilar Araya, Founding Partner B12

This is a reality that has left medical paternalism in the past, and which demands a more horizontal relationship with the health professional.

Many doctors feel uncomfortable with this new state of affairs as they do not know how to deal with it and, as a consequence, often shy away from it. Here are six keys to understanding this new way of communicating:

  1. Opportunities presented by the digital world: The opportunities that the digital world provides for health professionals are endless, opportunities that have certainly increased following the pandemic. However, to capitalize on these opportunities, they must be handled in a professional manner. This means institutions or professionals must be willing to invest in a digital communication plan managed by professional experts in communications and health, which ensures a high quality of information. This will also provide professionals with the valuable opportunity to learn digital communication tools, an area with its own characteristics and complexities. Learning about this form of communication will immediately generate added value in the professional and in the medical institutions that are willing to do it the right way.
  2. Digital communication is a complement to medical consultation: Technology has not changed the doctor’s mission. The role of these professionals remains the same: to heal, accompany, and guide the patient throughout their illness or disease. The information that the patient acquires in the digital world should be only a complement, and under no circumstances a replacement, for professional consultation. It is therefore essential that the doctor understands the keys to this form of communication, confronts it, and guides the patient within this new environment. In fact, it should be the doctor who recommends the best sources of medical information, and yet so far, everyone has taken control except the experts!
  3. Health information is the most frequently searched for content on the Internet: According to the first report on e-health in Chile by Media Conecta, Tren Digital and the Faculty of Communications PUC (see report), 91.6% of people have sought information on health. Is there any doubt that this is an unavoidable reality? In actual fact, digital health content has experienced the greatest growth in recent years.
  4. Well-informed patients contribute to their treatment: When patients have access to quality information from reliable sources, they can learn more about their condition, understand better what is happening to them and become more actively involved in their treatment. All of which have a positive impact on their health. So, why not guide them better in the digital world?
  5. Importance of keeping up to date with information channels: Today, social media is the main communication channel for all things health related. However, mobile applications have become very relevant in recent years and there have been some truly great innovations that can serve as a complement to your practice.
  6. Knowing the influential groups in your specialty: In addition to information, patients search on the Internet to find others who are going through a similar situation, and groups are emerging every day around diseases and medical circumstances. Some of them are so well organized that they have even instigated some legislation in the health field. It is important to be aware of them, not only to understand the real influence that these groups can have on their patients, but also because there may be an opportunity for doctors to eventually collaborate with them. Even a small contribution from them could make a tremendous difference.