GP appointments are more successful if patients research their symptoms and illnesses beforehand, according to new research.
Despite being warned about the dangers of online diagnosis and symptom checkers (such as convincing ourselves we’ve been struck down by some rare and deadly disorder when really we’ve just got indigestion), there could be benefits to giving in to the temptation to hit the search button.
A study by University College London (UCL) found that doctors pay more attention to those who arrive at consultations armed with their own research, compared with those who turn up with no suggestions of their own. But reassuringly for the docs, those involved in the study admitted they trusted the professionals far more than their own research, which is just as well, as a quarter of women have been found to misdiagnose themselves online.
The study involved 26 patients, who were told to investigate their health concerns before seeing their doctor. The majority found that this research enabled them to interact better with their GP and build a relationship with them, though some did worry that GPs could feel threatened by ‘Dr Google’.
Some warned that doctors could be ‘unwilling to admit their lack of knowledge’ and tended to ‘disregard the information’. But most said that doctors responded well to their pre-researched concerns and offered professional guidance to their findings.
Professor Roger Jones, editor of the British Journal of General Practice said: “While this study is based on a relatively small number of patients, it is likely to be indicative of what most GPs are seeing in their consultations every day.
“Patients of all ages use the internet and many now attend their GP appointment with information that they have researched themselves.”
He added that GPs increasingly expect to consult with well-informed patients: “Whereas GPs might have been sceptical in the past, many are increasingly using this as a way of opening up the discussion and engaging patients, which can lead to a more productive consultation.”
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