Me: You are here for your 6 month follow up. How have you been feeling?
Patient: I’ve been better. I just found out I have an aneurysm last week.
Me: Oh no! I am so sorry to hear that. Where is the aneurysm and the size? What diagnostic center did you get scanned? We will request the records.
Patient: Okay, so I have not “officially” been diagnosed. That’s where you come in. I have been having stomach and chest pains for weeks! Also, I have belching and pain with laying down and my blood pressure is high. My sister and I researched by symptoms and I am pretty sure it is an aneurysm.
Me: Ok, Hmm, those symptoms are suggestive of stomach issues. Have you made any changes to diet or medications recently?
Patient: No, but I ran out of my blood pressure meds 3 weeks ago. I knew I was coming here for refills. I also stopped my medicine for acid reflux 4 months ago because I do not get reflux anymore.
Should I believe you or the internet?
With the advent of the smart phone, we all walk around with access to the information of the world in our pockets. What a time to be alive! However, like all the great comic super heroes have taught us, “with great power comes great responsibility”. All that access to info it can be a double edge sword.
Researching symptoms on the internet can be helpful. I do this, you do this, we all do this. The problem is that not all information sites are created equal. There are millions of sites that give health advice. Some are experts, some are not. Making sure that the website is reliable is key (think WebMD type sites).
Bringing up information you have searched about your health is not a problem…usually. It can begin a conversation with your health provider and assist with establishing a plan of care. I find it refreshing to see a patient taking an active role in their health. The problems typically occur when a patient begins making changes simply on internet research without involving their health providers.