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I was a guest on Doctor Radio on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio the other morning and the physician-host asked listeners “Why do you use the Internet for health information?” The calls started pouring in from women around the country like you. One woman was trying to help her sister who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Together they wanted to understand all the options, even beyond what the sister’s doctor had laid out. Another wanted to understand her diagnosis of a rare disease and locate a specialist and a community of other patients like her. Another wanted to research whether a vitamin therapy could reverse her brother’s advanced cancer. We went on for an hour but could have stayed on the topic much longer. Surveys show women are very actively looking for health information on the Web. And they are bringing printouts and plenty of questions to their doctors. On the radio show several said their doctors did not react kindly. I was relieved that the host, a cardiologist, agreed with several listeners who wrote in – if your doctor is arrogant and not listening, fire your doctor.
In my view, the Internet is just a tool. It can empower you as a consumer. And you are a consumer of health care just like for so many other things. So, if you are the “customer” why shouldn’t you expect to be served? To be respected? My advice is just like you would in a restaurant or a department store, if you are not being listened to, if your questions are not being answered, walk out. The Internet can help answer your health questions and it may raise many other questions for you too. That should encourage dialogue with your doctor as you use him or her as your advisor. If he or she is slow to adapt to this new role, find another doctor. That’s what I heard the women saying who called and emailed in to the show. Don’t you agree?
About the author: Andrew Schorr is a medical journalist, cancer survivor and founder of Patient Power, a one-of-a-kind company dedicated to bringing in-depth information to patients with cancer and chronic illness.