Over six million individuals in the United States alone search for medical and health-related information on the internet every day. Both doctors and patients search for information relating to treatment regimes, diet and exercise plans, and the latest medical research news. The internet has become a popular way to ask questions and provide information in order to help patients better understand their role in their own health. That being said, quality healthcare is a team effort. It requires your patients to be proactive and ask questions, and it requires you to encourage them to ask questions without fear of consequences.
Patients’ health depends on good communication. However, sometimes there are barriers that prevent both doctors and patients from exchanging questions and answers. When a patient comes to see you, it is typically because they are experiencing a specific problem, such as a cold or abdominal pain. Yet, most of the time, patients fail to ask questions relating to their health. This may be due to several reasons—feelings of anxiety, strange surroundings, long waits, intimidation, unfamiliar faces, or even vulnerability. Most patients remain silent, because they fear taking up too much of your time, or they are simply afraid to ask questions. A research study showed more than 60% of participants stated they would rather turn to the internet as opposed to a doctor when they felt sick. While any patient’s goal is to receive quality care and to get better, some patients may fear that unleashing information on a doctor in person could have potential consequences.
From your perspective, a patient’s silence may be interpreted as understanding, thus giving a false sense of achievement. At times, even if patients know what questions they want to ask, they may be unable to interpret the answers they are given due to medical jargon. In reality, the patient may not have the slightest clue what they are told, and yet, they may be too embarrassed to say anything.
90% of patients turn to the internet and Google their symptoms. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is here to stay. While there are several reputable sites that can help patients get reassurance, some sites may lead to misdiagnosis. This is where you come in. You have the opportunity to help patients interpret what is accurate on the internet and what isn’t. For instance, you can offer them information as to what medical websites are trustworthy, why they should consider a particular treatment plan, or what their individualized treatment regime should consist of. The better informed they are, the more willing they will be to ask questions and take responsibility for the choices they make. Furthermore, the internet allows you to better interact with colleagues and share information, such as images, medical records, vital signs, and more. More available medical information means better outcomes in diagnosing medical conditions and providing proper treatment plans.
Statistics show the internet has greatly impacted healthcare over the last decade. Technological advancements are continuously occurring, and it is imperative that you take advantage of them. Here’s why:
- 90% of individuals between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four have stated they would trust medical information shared by others on social media networks.
- More than 25% of all hospitals in the United States are using social media to communicate with former, current, and prospective patients.
- Over 60% of patients have stated they are more likely to seek medical answers online or search health-related topics.
- Over 20% of individuals with smartphones have stated they have at least one health app on their phone.
- Over 40% of individuals have stated social media would likely affect their choice of doctor or hospital.
- Over 30% of healthcare professionals have stated they use social media for professional networking.
- 60% of doctors have stated social media has improved the quality of care delivered to their patients.
- More than 30% of individuals have stated they are likely to share health-related information with others.
- Over 60% of individuals have stated they are most likely to trust social media posts by doctors over any other group.
- More than 40% of individuals have stated social medial would likely affect the way they deal with their health.
- More than 50% of patients have stated they are more comfortable seeking advice from doctors on online communities to better treat their medical conditions.
The internet offers you the chance to become a reliable source of information for current and prospective patients. In fact, most patients may already have an impression of you from online reviews, recommendations, or browsing through your profile. FindaTopDoc has launched a new platform where patients can ask a doctor, such as you, free medical questions online. FindaTopDoc has encouraged doctors to become more engaged and to gain more exposure to patients online. What’s more, the new platform can help you establish your brand as a knowledgeable and approachable doctor who is passionate about their work.
In order to help patients ask questions to better understand and take an active role in their care, consider the following:
- Encourage patients to speak up if they have any questions or concerns.
- Urge patients to write down their questions before visiting the doctor.
- Let patients know their questions are expected and encouraged.
- Confirm patient understanding as a teach-back approach.
Doctor-patient dialogue does not have to end once the patient has left your office. Social media networking will continue to be used as a way to communicate, self-diagnose, get a second or third opinion, and seek out a healthcare professional. As a doctor, you need to be able to recognize that patients are beginning to use the internet more and more as a source of medical and health-related information. They can even track their medical conditions using an online portal and ask quick questions, all while saving time and cost. What’s more, it is not just the patients; friends and family also turn to the internet to research medical information when a loved one gets sick, because they seek answers and comfort in knowing someone has gone through the same situation.
You may face new challenges as patients receive more information online as opposed to consulting with a healthcare provider. However, the fact of the matter is patients will continue to seek more information and they will keep searching online. You see, to most patients, the internet is a necessity. It offers a safe place where they can vent and get back control. They do not need to get out of their comfort zone, because they can remain anonymous and blend in. This is why most patients are turning to the internet to ask doctors important questions online. They are beginning to learn when to see a doctor and to understand the importance of doctor input regarding medical situations.
Like it or not, doctors have started adapting to it and embracing it. By building an online presence, you can better communicate with patients and get them to open up about any questions or concerns they have. Moreover, you can direct patients to areas that best serve their needs. FindaTopDoc’s new platform is simply one example of how you can reach out to patients and assist them in evaluating the quality of medical and health-related information available on the internet. By doing so, you are continuing the flow of conversation and building rapport and trust among patients.