30 April 2019
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Q. Increasingly, patients are presenting for consultations armed with more information than you have in your head. This can invoke a range of emotions in the GP. Can you advise on how best to deal with 'Dr Google'?

A. When patients visit your office, they may already have a diagnosis in mind. Google statistics suggest that one in every 20 searches is for health-related information. After searching on the internet, patients come to you to get clarity but generally not to compete with your knowledge base.Patients often have more information on rare diseases from Google than the consultant specialists may possess.But it's helpful to not view this as a competition between you and technology. I see Google as a tool. It's not to supplant what we do as physicians. Before attempting to clear up any misconceptions, the best approach would be to acknowledge a patient's concerns. Take a deep breath and listen to what people have to say.

Communication is essential to the delivery of high-quality healthcare and is the powerful tool we GPs use every day.Doctors must remain attentive to the patient's underlying emotions, recognise their perspective and allow them to feel respected and heard. This is all part of the dynamic that is the doctor-patient partnership. Some practitioners nonetheless admit to feeling threatened by patients who conduct their research online. Physicians often resist or even resent 'Dr Google' for a variety of reasons. But perhaps we should be embracing 'Dr Google' and guiding our patients to use it wisely.Consider directing your 'Dr Google' patients to a reputable symptom diagnostic interpretation software such as https://symptomchecker.isabelhealthcare.com.

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