When Patients Google Before They Go to Your Clinic

(#HealthXPH is proud to welcome Dr. Ronnie Enriquez Baticulon as guest moderator for its tweet chat on June 28, 9 pm PHT.  Dr. Baticulon is a senior neurosurgery resident at PGH and blogs at ronibats.ph)

There is no doubt that the Internet has become the great equalizer of knowledge in the modern era. If there is anything you need to know, all you need to do is to go to Google, and after a few clicks lasting a few seconds, the information you need would be on your computer or mobile device, right there and then.

You can Google how to build a cabinet, how to make sushi, how to repair your iPhone, and you can even get instructions on how to dismantle an atomic bomb. Everybody can become an instant carpenter, an instant master chef, an instant techno-geek, an instant author, an instant dressmaker, and our patients can become, well, instant doctors.

With the rapid proliferation of websites containing health information of varying credibility online, and the increasing availability of wireless Internet to people regardless of economic status, it is not surprising that patients now turn to their computers first before seeking professional medical opinion.

It is a scenario in the clinic that is becoming familiar to more and more doctors. A patient comes in for a consult and begins to ask questions.  It could be about a symptom, a laboratory result, or a medication. You answer as thoroughly as you can, but begin to wonder why the questions have a certain depth to them. And then it eventually comes out in the conversation, conveniently and casually, that your patient searched for answers online before seeing you. From then on, it can be awkward, especially if there’s a difference in opinion (the MD vs the Internet). It may even hinder the establishment of good rapport with your patient.

For this week’s #HealthXPH chat, we will tackle the modern physician’s problem: What do you do when patients Google before they go to your clinic?

  • T1: What are advantages and disadvantages when patients seek health information online before they consult a physician in person?
  • T2: How do you best deal with patients who insist on diagnostic and/or therapeutic options they found on the Internet?
  • T3: Patients Google their doctors’ names, too. What measures can you take to protect your online reputation?

See you on Saturday, June 28, 2014, 9 pm PHT at our #HealthXPH tweet chat!


  1. watdoc