How Healthcare Workers Can Restore Patient Trust in the Internet Age
Have you ever typed in symptoms of a headache in a search engine and found out that these signs may be linked to a tumor, cancer, or other scary disorders? Chances are, if you are reading this article, you have done the aforementioned. Being certain that you have a terminal illness, maybe you have even scheduled an immediate appointment, only to find out that your symptoms are common. Do you trust your doctor or do you search for a second opinion to validate your internet diagnosis?
The internet age has caused problems for healthcare workers all over the world. Some patients value information off of Wikipedia more than they do their physician’s opinion. The fact is that the internet has devalued the doctor-patient relationship, causing struggles for both doctors and patients alike.
Ensuring communication throughout every doctor-patient interaction is key to building a trustworthy relationship. While it is easy for a doctor to spout off medical jargon, leaving the patient with a list of terms to google, it has become bad business for doctor-patient relationships. Doctors should realize that some patients do not understand medical jargon and need the layman’s version of diagnosis.
While it is common practice for doctors to offer a simple “one-way” solution for a diagnosis, some patients may prefer the atypical approach when it comes to treatment. Doctors have a responsibility for explaining different procedures, testing, and routes of treatment. A medical malpractice specialist from Rosengren Kohlmeyer Law Offices says that, as medicine has become more specialized, patient reliance on medical providers has increased. Patients need to realize they have every much as much of a part in the decision-making process as their doctor and should be comfortable with treatment options before proceeding.
It is a common misconception that all medical doctors have all the answers. The fact is, it is quite the opposite. A patient may get frustrated when a doctor cannot give an immediate diagnosis or refers them to a specialist for further treatment. When this happens, it is important to reiterate to the patient the exact process physicians go about for reaching a specific diagnosis. Keeping the patient informed of your medical limits, while ensuring they will still receive excellent care is important when building a trustful doctor-patient relationship.
One of the greatest draws of the internet, for the self-diagnoser, is the apparent transparency of information. When a symptom is brought up, the patient only has to type it into their search bar to read up on all the information available (true or otherwise). Between the user and the internet, there is no withheld information, which patients greatly appreciate, even if it’s not the best way to receive said information. Doctors and other healthcare professionals can combat this potentially dangerous form of diagnosis by disclosing relevant information and offering the patient resources for their own research. This way, the patient can satisfy their curiosity and answer their own questions using materials their doctor is aware of.
While it is hard to compete against the internet filled with seemingly endless knowledge, physicians can still provide a trustworthy doctor-patient relationship. Keeping open lines of communication, involving the patient in decision-making, limiting medical jargon, and being upfront with limits of medical knowledge is just a head-start to earning a patient’s trust.
About the Author: Marlena Stoddard is a freelance writer who received her BA from the University of Georgia.
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