Dr. Google creates anxiety, opportunity

June 1, 2015

Most health information seekers navigate the Internet for what they think will be the best information available about their health condition or that of a loved one. Unfortunately, the Internet is unfiltered, unregulated, and often saturated with promotional, unsubstantiated, and at times frightening information.

Steven A. Kaplan, MDDr. Kaplan

 

The most popular physician in the United States is Dr. Google. Most health information seekers navigate the Internet for what they think will be the best information available about their health condition or that of a loved one. Unfortunately, the Internet is unfiltered, unregulated, and often saturated with promotional, unsubstantiated, and at times frightening information.

Related - Promoting TRT online: Balanced information lacking

If you do a Google search for prostate cancer, for example, you’ll turn up 29.8 million results. For testosterone therapy, you’ll get 16,500,000 results.

Oberlin et al touch upon a major problem in health care delivery; that is, accurate and timely informatics. In the past, patients often received their first information from their health care provider. Today, many come to the doctor's office with stacks of files on their condition accrued from web searches.

Testosterone therapy is a particularly challenging area because men feel vulnerable about aging and are ripe for being influenced by advertising, misinformation, and even outright lies in their quest to recapture their youth. In their study, the authors noted that much of the information is directed by non–physicians, often without disclosure of financial interests in the products being touted. In only about 27% were side effects discussed.

Some call this shameful; others call it capitalism. There is much financial gain to be made in an arena where the science is at best evolving with lots of questions and few definitive answers. So where do we go from here?

Dr. Google takes enormous effort and creates alarming degrees of anxiety and frustration. People are overwhelmed and don’t know whom to trust and what applies to them. However, this is an ideal opportunity for urologists and other health care providers to offer a great benefit to their patients. Providing accurate and timely information and interdigitating modern technology to deliver curated meaningful informatics will, in time, overcome the overwhelming data dump one gets on the Internet.

We will never be able to rid ourselves of the charlatans and those who prey on the vulnerable, sick, and elderly. However, we can and must optimize our own interactions with patients and provide a more seamless approach to their health care delivery.

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