The Google Pre-consultation

Patients frequently preface a question with “I know doctors hate it when their patients look stuff up on the internet, but…” In typical doctor fashion I interrupt them at this point and say, “No I don’t, I like it when patients do that.” It takes a moment or two for that to take. Then they nod and ask whatever is worrying them that they’ve found on line.

The Google “pre-consultation” is a fact. According to research done by the Pew Research Center, 72% of internet users have searched the internet for health information.[1] Many doctors I know, or at least the ones on social media, will pro-actively ask their patients “what did you read about it online?” This often relieves a couple of anxieties. First, that the doctor will negatively judge the patient for checking on line and secondly, the patient can proceed to ask questions about what is worrying her or him.

So when you come in to see me, instead of the “petit papier” with all your questions, I’ll expect them to be in a list on your smart phone or tablet (the paper is OK too). And if you want to send them in ahead of time, be my guest! Go to RelayHealth.com, register and send me your questions before your appointment. We can save time and cover more ground that way.

Oh, and when you are researching on the web, be careful out there. You can find lots of wrong information, chicanery and just plain bad advice on the internet. Here are my recommended web sites for disease searches:

If you are looking for patients with similar conditions to yours, there are some great patient communities out there as well:

And always, if you think of a question you forgot to ask please contact me through RelayHealth.com.

1. http://www.pewinternet.org/Commentary/2011/November/Pew-Internet-Health.aspx

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