Introduction The Internet has changed the way we live, and for many people, is a part of our everyday lives. We use it to communicate, for entertainment, do our banking, and as a tremendous resource for the access of all kinds of information. The amount of information available seems endless, and spans almost any conceivable topic, including medicine. As a result, this availability of information has changed dramatically how we use the medical profession, our views of it, and our relationships with the physicians we deal with.
The medical profession The medical profession historically has seemed to always be a “closed-book”, reserved only for medical practitioners, who were held quite high by society for their knowledge in this area. After all, these were people who knew why we were feeling ill, and most of the time would make us feel better. No one ever questioned a doctor’s advice, or suggested that a doctor could be giving an incorrect diagnosis, or handling themselves in anything but a professional manner.
This “doctors knows best” view, is maintained via the medical community itself, and the idea that doctors need to ensure that this continues to be the case starts in medical school. After starting their third year, medical students soon realize that even if they do not know all the answers, they must never let this be revealed. (SITE) Doctors rarely will criticize each other in front of patients, and it applies even to the extreme that many medical students and even other doctors will let violations of medical ethics and standards go unreported, as to not have a negative impact on the general public’s view of the profession.
(SITE) The power that these doctors have is very closely related to their grasp of information relating to the human condition. In their case, information is power. However, the access to this information has started to change with the development of the Internet. The Internet is a phenomenal source of information. At the start, there were sites, and they were advertised mostly through the media, such as newspapers and television. However, with the development of the search engine, people no longer needed to know the site’s address in order to find information; they could simply search for it.
Google, which is by far the most popular search engine, allows the average user to search for any topic. In terms of medicine, you can search for symptoms, definitions of disease, photographs of disorders, treatments for various disorders, and also find sites that offer diagnosis based on the symptoms. A good example of such a site is WebMD. (SITE) Here you can search for diseases, based on symptoms, or simply gain information about certain diseases. Another site, WrongDiagnosis.
com allows you to see common incorrect diagnosis, chat with others to share information about symptoms, various tests for diagnosis, and much more. Diagnose-Me. com has a “The Analyst” tool which they claim is better in many ways than going to a doctor for diagnosis. (SITE) Common wording on the sites such as ‘Have a symptom that is bothering you? ” or “Symptom checklist” allows you to quickly get an initial list of potential diseases and disorders that are associated with the symptoms that you are experiencing.
How the internet affects medicization, and Doctor / patient relationship As a result of the wealth of information available online, people are now performing self-diagnosis, or chatting with others about their health problems, before seeing a doctor. This is very much changing the relationship we have with doctors for many reasons. It is allowing us to be more informed patients, and more educated about various disorders. For example, my husband was concerned about Chicken pox, because he has never had it, since a co-worker of his had been diagnosed with shingles.
When we went to his family doctor, he did not have to explain what Shingles was, or how it develops, since my husband was able to educate himself ahead of time using the Internet. Access to this information is also making the general public realize that doctors do not always have all the answers, and that doctors are simply using the knowledge gained during medical school, to associate the symptoms you are explaining to them to a particular disorder. Once a list of disorders can be narrowed down, then blood tests can be ordered.
In many cases, patients these days already have a short list of possible causes for their symptoms, and simply need the doctor to narrow the list down. This is allowing people to realize, that doctors are simply human, and are capable of not knowing all the answers, despite what they might be trying to portray to you. References Beagon’s 2001. “Even if I don’t know what I’m doing, I can make it look like I know what I’m doing”: Becoming a doctor in the 1990s. ” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 38 (3) pp. 275-292.