Tara Parker-Pope at the NY Times Well Blog has an article about how patients can cope with the vast flood of information (and misinformation) that is now available to them through the Internet.
Nowadays, people can look up their symptoms, self-diagnose certain conditions, find studies about the efficacy of various treatments, and find out what the medical community’s consensus opinion is on a wide range of issues–all things that they once relied on doctors for.
Dr. Marisa Weiss, a breast oncologist quoted in the article, points out that doing independent research before a doctor’s appointment has become mandatory because doctors have less and less time for patients. So it’s in the patients’ best interests to come in some idea of what’s going on, so they can communicate what they’ve learned to their doctors and the appointment will proceed with more efficiency.
However, coping with so much information can be a puzzling experience. The article lists several helpful suggestions, such as considering what mental impact doing the research will have on you, exploring non-Internet sources, using your research as a supplement to your doctor rather than as a complete replacement, and other such useful tips. The whole thing is worth a read.