Doctors Consult Dr. Google Too

Doctors Consult Dr. Google Too

I have lost track of the number of times I’ve had conversations with medical doctors about health-related issues (yes, including vaccines) and have been talked down to when I asked too many questions or gave the slightest hint that I was uncomfortable with the medical advice being given. When faced with someone who is acting more like an educated consumer than just another patient, many physicians have asked me, “So, where did you learn that… the Internet? Dr. Google?”

The underlying message was that I should not trust what I read on the Internet and, besides, I wasn’t qualified to do my own health or medical research because I didn’t go to medical school. Cardiologist Haider Warraich wrote in The New York Times last year:

Doctors and nurses frequently try to discourage their patients from turning to the internet for answers. And yet patients will continue to Google their symptoms and medications because the internet doesn’t require an appointment or a long wait, it is not rushed, it doesn’t judge, it doesn’t require a hefty co-pay and it often provides information that seems simple to understand.1

The question has sometimes been asked in a light-hearted manner meant to poke a little fun. But sometimes it has been asked with a roll of the eyes and a clear sense of exasperation, creating an awkward moment. It’s at that point that I’ve usually opted to remain quiet and let the moment pass without any further escalation. Only with a couple of doctors whom I knew personally did I answer, “Probably the same way you usually get your information, I did some research on the Internet.”

Side note: Remember, the Internet is simply a delivery system, a vehicle to get somewhere. Where you choose to go is another matter.

My response was not meant to be disrespectful. It was based on my observations of doctors whenever I’ve asked them questions they could not readily answer. Usually, they would pick up their laptop and go online to a website or do a Google search.

A 2014 article in The Atlantic referenced a report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics that found that Wikipedia was the top source of health information for doctors. According to the article by Julie Beck, “Fifty percent of physicians use Wikipedia for information, especially for specific conditions.”2

According to an annual survey by pharmaceutical media agency CMI/Compas of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, “Online searching is a popular activity among doctors, with more than 70% of physicians using search engines—most often Google—at least once daily for professional purposes.”3

Another survey conducted in the Asia-Pacific region by science and medical information firm Elsevier of the Netherlands a few years ago found that “90% of doctors rely on online search engines to aid their clinical decisions with Google being the most popular… ” noted an article in The Times of India.4 “The survey found eight in ten physicians indicated that having ‘instant access’ to the latest reference content is ‘very’ and ‘extremely important’ in influencing their clinical decisions.”4

Putting aside the fact that doctors and other medical professionals use the Internet and “Dr. Google” just like anyone else, the question then arises, “Are they more qualified to distinguish between good and bad health-related information that is found online than someone who does not have a medical degree?” My experience has been that sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not. It depends on the individual and on the health issue.

I have sometimes been told by doctors that I lack the training to properly filter reliable from non-reliable health information because they are scientists and I am not. But is that always true? Are doctors scientists? Not according to Richard Smith, MD, editor in chief of The BMJ and chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group from 1991 to 2004.

“Some doctors are scientists—just as some politicians are scientists—but most are not. As medical students they were filled full with information on biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, and other sciences, but information does not a scientist make,” says Dr. Smith.5

Dr. Smith explains, “A scientist is somebody who constantly questions, generates falsifiable hypotheses, and collects data from well designed experiments—the kind of people who brush their teeth on only one side of their mouth to see whether brushing your teeth has any benefit. Most doctors follow familiar patterns and rules, often improvising around those rules. In their methods of working they are more like jazz musicians than scientists.”5

It is that “constantly questioning” (and searching) piece that I found disturbingly missing in many doctors. Oddly, it is perhaps that habit that many doctors find most annoying about patients who like doing their own research, along with consulting their health care providers.


This article or commentary provides referenced information and perspective on a topic related to vaccine science, policy, law or ethics being discussed in public forums and by U.S. lawmakers. The websites of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide information and perspective of federal agencies responsible for vaccine research, development, regulation and policymaking.

References:

1 Murray PM. Dr. Google Is a Liar. The New York Times Dec. 16, 2018.
2 Beck J. Doctors’ #1 Source for Healthcare Information: Wikipedia. The Atlantic Mar. 5, 2014.
3 Snyder Bulick B. Physicians use ‘Doctor Google’ daily, but they still rely on traditional info sources, too: study. FiercePharma Nov. 11, 2016.
4 Dey S. 90% of doctors rely on online search engines to aid clinical decisions: Survey. The Times of India Oct. 3, 2015.
5 Field Notes. Richard Smith, MD on How Most Doctors are Not Scientists. The Vaccine Reaction Mar. 28, 2019.

 

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28 Responses to "Doctors Consult Dr. Google Too"

  1. Laura P.   April 4, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Like a library, the Internet is a repository of information – nothing more, nothing less. There’s good information and bad. Patronizing references to Dr. Google simply indicate that your doctor thinks you’re too stupid to evaluate and synthesize information.

    Reply
  2. Kimberly   April 4, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Wonderful article! I’ve witnessed this at nearly every doctor’s visit I’ve ever had…

    Reply
  3. Pauline Clark   April 4, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Great article! I guess I knew these facts about doctors and their bent to searching for knowledge about ailments, their symptoms and treatments on the Internet just like our family does. But go to an M.D. for a malady and he/she will always take and use the advice about which drug or drugs, or vaccines to use on patients whose bodies they can’t possibly know ALL ABOUT! Doctoring can thus be a dangerous pursuit. That’s why my family always first turns to our chiropractor who helps us get over ailments without drugs, but quickly advises M.D. care when needed.

    Reply
    • Diane Cummings   April 5, 2019 at 11:15 am

      I too, start with my chiropractor.

      Reply
  4. Mary   April 4, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    I love “Dr Google”.

    I like to research many different people & places where something looks interesting.

    It can even be useful when looking up travel info in preparation for a trip. You can also look at which countries have some kind of problems, like Nicaragua. I read it is major there.

    Reply
  5. Mark R   April 4, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    For the past 17 years I have used “Google Scholar” in my searches for published clinical studies from peer-reviewed medical journals online. Through a local university, I have had access to these published studies when other would not. Prior to that, I went to the medical libraries, searched the journals by year, found the study then photocopied it.
    I recently have been fortunate to find most of my original searches online and have downloaded them in a PDF file format.
    I have over 2,000 clinical studies on vaccines from peer-reviewed medical journals and continue searching.
    I can say without hesitation, there are hundreds of studies showing vaccines:
    1) do not work against the said “virus” it is supposed to protect us from
    2) cause long-term neurological damage to the brain and central nervous system
    3) cause immediate and chronic immune system dysfunction
    4) are responsible for neurological dysfunction decades later
    5) and yes, they are cause-and-effect responsible for autism!

    Anyone who says otherwise is either an uneducated fool or a paid shill of the vaccine business.
    In recent years, to protect Bill Gates et al… continued vaccine policies, especially in 3rd world countries, the “medical world” has conveniently renamed diseases. So polio is now called “acute flaccid paralysis”. Read the symptoms and how many times the studies cite vaccination of the population.
    To make matters worse, and criminal in my mind, the medical community act as if they cannot figure out why these “new” disease are occurring. They claim they do not know how or why these “newer” diseases (which match vaccine damage) are a mystery. The only mystery for me is why they have not been sued. It is unethical and criminal.
    It is a G-damn shame non-profit organizations like Greenpeace and others who claim to be about the planet and its inhabitants don’t include humans. It is joke they have not come together to file law-suits against vaccine manufacturers under “weapons-of-mass-destruction”!

    This is what vaccines are, weapons-of-mass-destruction against humans. Oh, but PETA, in an instant, will throw paint on someone wearing fur, or go to great lengths to make a meat eater feel guilty. But would these organizations stand up to the governments and vaccine manufacturers to protect US – humans? What a joke they are.
    Time to get off your arses and take it to the streets ’cause the communist politicians don’t give a damn about you or your children. They only care about their retirement package. Surveys conducted many times with doctors revealed while they advocate vaccinating their patient’s children, a majority have never vaccinated their own children – hypocrisy to the fullest.

    Reply
    • CAWS   April 5, 2019 at 5:06 pm

      I would love to avail myself of your research especially with the internet beginning to censor anything about vaccines. I usually keep a copy of the CDC ‘s Vaccine Media & Excipients Summary handy as I know my doctor has never read the actual ingredients.

      Reply
  6. Pat   April 4, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Not only did Ethan Lindenberger get a pass on that one, but he got to go and testify in Congress. Ya see, it’s OK for the pro-vaxxers to get their stuff from the Internet. After all, they all went to Internet School!

    Reply
  7. Eric H.   April 4, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    They need you to believe that only they are qualified to decipher health information otherwise their facade of authority evaporates.

    Reply
  8. Heidi   April 4, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    Doctors are becoming increasingly patronizing to their patients. At the same time they are becoming more robotic and unable to think through any thing that rerouted critical faculties. They really are not doing their profession any good by eye rolling their patients. Google is great and if you have the patience you can access quality research and new ideas.

    Reply
  9. sheilaD   April 4, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Thank you for this. IBM has a program called Watson, which brings up relevant data for doctors and patients. I recently brought my son to a Hospital who uses Watson and it was a refreshing experience.

    Reply
  10. Karen S   April 5, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Fantastic article!! I would not want to go to a Dr who thinks they’re “too smart” to use the web. The web is today’s library.

    Reply
  11. Carol Jackson   April 5, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Wholeheartedly agree. So anytime a doctor or anyone else says “the science is settled”, know that they are definitely not a scientist.

    Reply
  12. Hannah   April 5, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Thank you for the excellent quote from Richard Smith. It’s what my husband and I have been saying to each other ever since we began looking more closely at vaccines. Doctors claim their medical expertise when telling you to vaccinate, but parroting what key opinion leaders say, or what CDC scientists say, is not medical expertise any more than what I can look up on the internet. And most pediatricians who will argue vehemently that you are taking great risks with your child and society have never looked at any of the scientific papers they claim support their case. So what seems like a majority of doctors supporting vaccination really boils down to a small number of industry experts. And for all those industry experts, there are scientists and doctors who have done the research or are engaged in scientific research who disagree.

    Reply
  13. Anna A Poulin   April 5, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Arrogant.. includes the females too…

    Reply
  14. Pittsburgh Gal   April 5, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    This article confirms the condescending attitude I saw when I worked with specialists in the vaccine field…

    Reply
  15. Angela Jones   April 5, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    I worked as a charge nurse (RN) on a bone marrow transplant unit. I remember one night a newer resident was intubating one of our patients. After all was said and done, he left the unit. Unfortunately, he left a page pulled up on the computer. I kid you not, it was a Wikipedia page on how to intubate.

    Reply
  16. jo   April 5, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    I JUST read an ad for Virtual Reality OR training. In that operating room, I sure hope they face me the same direction as in the VR training. Whoops, what was THAT appendage?! Perhaps they can get Boeing to put in some software and kill us all.

    Like any government workers, while they cannot defend what they are doing—and very likely are ignorant, while merely following orders—-highly-paid doctors MUST avoid you and hope to have the “news” media wipe you out.
    Otherwise, they might not be able to live with themselves??
    _ Once their OWN family is damaged, they might become whistleblowers, but even that isn’t too likely.
    Doctors are forced into bad procedures and selling untested and/or polluted Chinese and other “shithole”-country drugs. Yet, No!: Puerto Rico is not better, just cheaper (slave wages still apply, at the 80 factories, but when the annual hurricane wrecks the place, those enormous major drug co’s let USA (tax payers) pay to fix the junk. Plus, shipping is cheap, as it’s NOT across the Pacific. But those drugs aren’t any better than grocery-store vitamins.)
    _ Yet, it’s still THE DOCTORS WHO FAVOR THEIR WEALTH OVER THEIR OATHS to “do no harm.” They beg you not to notice. IATROGENIC whoops death by doctor——-
    2018 [https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-america.html]
    2016 [https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/study_suggests_medical_errors_now_third_leading_cause_of_death_in_the_us]
    _ BLAME THEM HARSHLY AND STOP GOING. But you won’t.

    Reply
  17. Constance Freeman   April 5, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article. Over the years, I found that I had to fire doctors to eventually find one that I believed in. I don’t agree with him on everything, but he practices the philosophy that he wants his patients to be educated as to how best to care for their health. He along with his staff practice functional medicine. The last doctor I fired, wanted me to continue to get chest x-rays and cat scans every few months. I have an autoimmune disease. I asked him if he thought there would be a change in the results, and he said no. Yet he was continuing to expose me to more and more cumulative ionizing radiation. I remember that day which was over 10 years ago as if it were the present. I heard the voice in my head say,”We’re never coming back here again.” And I didn’t. If I had gone along with it, he would have eventually had something to treat me for. CANCER!!!

    Reply
  18. Bereaved   April 5, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    I had a physician chew me out and declare I had probably gotten information from the internet. I explained I had read medical research reports at their source. He said I was not qualified. I explained that he shouId ask questions before accusing, having recently completed my PhD., but the technical language of cancer was difficult. He referred us to the top surgeon in the area, who would understand the research. My husband had so many problems from that surgery, lack of understanding the extent of it, and lack of help with its complications, that he gave up and passed on. The natural remedies we were doing early on actually helped and we both wished we had kept that up and avoided the surgery, but we could not do them after the surgery. God bless you all.

    Reply
    • Russ Wollman   April 10, 2019 at 8:16 pm

      This attempt to force these vaccines on the population of the US is despicable, but it is also a sign of desperation. The pharma industry is running scared: Purdue and OxyContin and legal action; drugs recalled for serious injury; and now this doubt about vaccines that is clearly not going away.

      But there’s enough faith in vaccines and their status as a rite of childhood that the industry can exploit and maintain income through them. I think that’s happening now, while the politicians are in their offices writing legislation. Some of them undoubtedly hope to cash in on Pharma bucks should favorable legislation pass.

      There is much wrong about modern medicine, starting with its one-size-fits-all approach. Vaccines surely set the child up for a lifetime of drug dependency, if the child health statistics are a reliable indication.

      Clearly our disease care system has to be replaced, but it has to be taken down or destroyed first. It won’t go down without a fight, as the money involved is enormous. It’s easy to become alarmed right now, but all the noise and commotion will undoubtedly force the truth out of hiding.

      I feel very fortunate to have had good experience with Ayurveda and Transcendental Meditation as powerful tools to maintain good health and strength. Nature is powerful and has endowed every living thing with great intelligence. That natural intelligence is what must be recognized and nourished in each of us. That’s the direction we need to take.

      Best wishes to all for health and happiness.

      Reply
  19. Kat Martino   April 6, 2019 at 8:51 am

    I was “fired” by one doctor for asking too many questions, and questioning her medical advice which didn’t sound quite right to me. She acted exasperated with my questions, and the I received a letter in the mail a few days later telling me to find a new doctor. No joke.

    Reply
    • Dani   April 6, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      The last doctor that fired me (there have been many over the years) still sends me letters and those automated phone calls reminding me that it’s time for such and such checkup, procedure, vaccine, whatever … idiots.

      Reply
    • Redpill   April 6, 2019 at 5:03 pm

      You’re better off. Doctors forget they work for you.

      Reply
  20. Joel Robertson   April 7, 2019 at 10:59 am

    You might be better off consulting Dr. DuckDuckGo than Dr. Google if you want less biased search results and care about your privacy.

    Reply
  21. James Richard Bailey   April 8, 2019 at 11:18 am

    I have spent a couple of thousand hours researching vaccines and writing a research-based report on what I’ve learned. I guess I’m fortunate in that I have a primary care physician who is a young lady. She respects my position on vaccines, and has not pressured me in any way. Ironically, she is employed by Essentia Health Care of Duluth, Minnesota, who has fired over four dozen employees over their refusal to receive flu shots. By the way, Duck Duck Go bases their results of Google’s algorithm. I suggest Swiss Cows as a better, less prejudiced search engine.

    Reply
  22. Jenny   April 8, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    I wish people would start using alternative search engines, google censors so much stuff! Who wants to support a censorship happy entity? Use duckduckgo.com or vimeo for videos, there are a lot more search engines too.

    Doctors are not always “brilliant”, Dr. Susan Humphries books can attest to that, especially her biography. Many doctors are complete incompetents, who go out of the country to some med school, graduate and then practice here, it’s very scary who they seem to graduate from med schools.

    Reply
  23. Laura   April 16, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    As a physician I find it refreshing when a patient tries to educate him/herself. I view it as an investment into their health and my opportunity is to fine-tune the information. And by the way, medicine actually falls under engineering, not science.

    Reply

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