I do love the internet: at home and also at work, where I can find things faster, often, than searching through a textbook (filing not being my strong point.)
The pros and cons of using the internet for diagnosis have been noted and an interesting recent perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine – Untangling the Web – Patients, Doctors, and the Internet – makes the point well. Information has to be good.
But what about getting a bit more personal? I’ve discussed before my unease about the (lack of) evidence and harms of “doctor rating” websites – I don’t think that being able to search online for a doctor is all the UK government cracks it up to be. But what about doctors searching online for information about patients? The thought had never occurred to me. But an article in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry: Patient-Targeted Googling: The Ethics of Searching Online for Patient Information suggests that it is commonplace in the US, and comments that it might be a bit intrusive to google for information about patients.
I can’t think of a better word to describe it than “creepy”. Sure, the information on Facebook or whatever is in the public domain – but who is to say whether it is accurate. The authors say that consent should be obtained from patients to allow doctors to search…but should they really search in the fist place? Surely not.