I also posted this on the e-patients blog.
There's been a lot of talk about Scott Haig's November article in Time, When the Patient is a Googler: Alan Greene wrote on the e-patients blog; it was a hot topic on the NY Times "Well" blog; and Susannah Fox said:
I'd love to hear what people think about the issues raised, but I also want us to notice the use of the term "googler" to describe the group we would call "e-patients" (and that Harris Interactive would call "cyberchondriacs.")And this, from Network World: When the patient is a Googler and the doctor is a pompous ass.
There seems to be a binariness to the conversation: some think patients should just mind their own business (i.e. stick to the listening side of the desk), others think patients have every right to mind their own business: be actively involved in researching and knowing their condition, and bringing things to the table.
What's missing is the aspect of building an effective partnership. As a living specimen of the patient side of things, I have a couple of observations.
- How dare anyone tell me not to try to find out what's going on inside my body? I wouldn't tolerate that from a car mechanic and I won't tolerate it from a doctor. That attitude is obsolete.
- At the same time, if I want partnership, I get a responsibility too. At the core are two-way respect and open communication: freedom to express, freedom to bring things up, freedom to be heard - and responsibility to listen and not abuse the privilege.
When you look at it that way, it becomes clear: the patient in Haig's article would have been a nightmare with or without Google. The real title should have been "When the Patient is a Yahoo."
For my part, I've started work on an "e-patient bill of rights and responsibilities." Patients, I'm curious - what would you expect in a good partnership of any sort: marriage, car repair, banker, medical?
Speak up: this is a living example of Web 2.0 means we get to say. We can define groundrules that work, creating a new world that will benefit us, our children, and generations to come. (I've already started the conversation with a med student I know on Facebook, and she's psyched.)
A closing oddity: Google's summary of the article contains a phrase that I can't find in the article itself: "A well-informed patient can be a good thing, so long as he or she's got the right kind of information." Doing a View Source shows that the phrase only appears in the meta-tag for the article's description:
<metaname="description" content="A well-informed patient can be a good thing, so long as he or she's got the right kind of information">That sums it up pretty well. I wonder how it ended up in the metatags and not in the article! Did somebody edit it out, just as it was going to "press"?