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Trisha Torrey

Googling and Eye Rolling - But Leave the Google Stacks at Home

By January 23, 2011

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A few years ago, Time Magazine published an article written by Dr. Scott Haig in which he talked about dismissing a patient who had googled her own symptoms. He fired her - because he didn't like the fact that she was second guessing him, and he didn't like her attitude.

That article caused an uproar from patients! And - fairly so. Truthfully, in my estimation, it was less because Dr. Haig was so clearly arrogant and condescending, and more because we were upset that our google-fearing doctors were still living in the dark ages.

This week, 3-/2 years later, Time Magazine has published a new article by Dr. Zachery Meisel which tells doctors, in effect, to get their heads out of the collective sand... and we learn a new word for those handsful of computer printouts too many of us show up to appointments with. They are called "google stacks."

Dr. Meisel tells doctors in this article that

...to debate whether patients should or should not Google their symptoms (which a surprising number of doctors seem to enjoy engaging in) is an absurd exercise. Patients already are doing it, it is now a fact of normal patient behavior, and it will only increase as Internet technology becomes ever more ubiquitous.

Dr. Meisel then goes on to suggest to doctors that as long as they can't beat us, they might as well join us - and they should be providing links and background information to us to help us find more useful information. GREAT idea.

Here's what we patients need to know:

  • That doctors have very limited time with us. To show up with a stack of computer print outs is almost insulting, and that's why it's resisted.
  • That too much of what we find on the internet either A. doesn't apply to us, B. is wrong or C. is dangerous.

And this is what we patients can do about it:

Doctors and patients will eventually find their levels when it comes to sharing information found on the Internet. I do have to wonder what Dr. Haig thinks about Dr. Meisel's suggestions!

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Learn more ~ or join the conversation!


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Photo sjlocke / iStockPhoto.com

January 23, 2011 at 11:38 am
(1) e-Patient Dave says:

Yes! And, there’s hope – much more than I first thought. Dr. Haig responded to the uproar by holding a physician roundtable and publishing it.

My little post on this is here, but it doesn’t add much to what you’ve said. Good post.

January 23, 2011 at 11:47 am
(2) Trisha Torrey says:

Great follow up on Dr. Haig, Dave. Thanks for adding that….

I think the point here is that mutual respect is just so lacking. Doctors who think they can control their patients’ “e” behaviors are dinosaurs.

I sure as heck have no interest in being treated by a dinosaur!

Thanks for commenting.

January 25, 2011 at 9:59 am
(3) Julia says:

I Google my symptoms and tell my doctor when I see her. But I always follow it up with a comment along the lines of “I’m here because I know better than to self-diagnose and need your expert opinion.” It helps that my doc is very progressive technically. I wouldn’t have one who isn’t.

January 10, 2012 at 11:02 am
(4) Kathleen Cunningham says:

Doctor’s don’t know everything and it is up to us to be active participants in our own medical care.

Years ago, a doctor tried to give me a medication that I knew was contraindicated for a condition I have. I told him about the contraindication and he said I didn’t know what I was talking about. He was condescending and arrogant.

I refused the medication and sent him a copy of the page from the PDR with the contraindication highlighted in yellow. I didn’t attach a nasty note or anything, just sent him the PDR page. I never did go back to him and learned a lesson that docs don’t know everything and you have to be your own advocate.


January 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm
(5) Lorri Zipperer says:

Trish – a partner not mentioned here to help separate the information “wheat from the shaft” are librarians. Whether in a public, school, university or hospital setting, they can help the patient/family involved find the best material to review with the physician.

January 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm
(6) Trisha Torrey says:

Great point, Lorri.

In fact, I’ve written about what a great resource libraries can be:


Thanks for reminding us.


January 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm
(7) gemdiamondintherough says:

Well, here I go again!!!!
Really, technology has “exploded” in the last four years. We are talking about and using things that were not around before then! And guess what. Many of those doctors are using some form of technology to look up medications, s&s, among other things themselves!!!!
I know some of us that are not as comfortable with the new technology are also in the medical profession! But we have to learn and keep up with the paces.
My personal opinion is that my health care is a collaborative effort – so to have a Dr. to be insulted with my trying to do research is and insult to me. If they feel like I am not using credible sites to gather information, then they should share which ones they feel are worth using. Like already said , there needs to be MUTUAL RESPECT!
There is so much more information, than even 25 years ago, that no one person can know everything. It is impossible.
If a professional feels insulted or needs to put you down, than they are not worth seeking care from.

January 18, 2013 at 9:36 am
(8) Edward Leigh says:

Hi Trisha — as always you present excellent information. My work involves helping doctors communicate with patients. When patients walk in with Internet printouts, I instruct the doctors to say, “Thank you.” I go on to emphasize that informed patients are your best patients. I also suggest they emphasize to patients what legitimate healthcare websites look like — I emphasize the .gov & .edu sites. Keep up the great work! Best, Eddie

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