Online Doctors

September 23, 2012

I frequently hear the term online doctor.  When I hear it I have to wonder if there are offline doctors in contrast?

Increasingly our networks are moving digital.  Most docs use FB.  Twitter use is in line with the general population.  And it’s hard to believe that there’s any doctor who doesn’t consume information from the web.  I suspect that at some level we’re all online doctors.

The term suggests that our online and offline worlds are separate.  Nathan Jurgenson has called this digital dualism.  His description is a bit heavy but worth a peek if you’re into this sort of thing.  I have to agree that the divide between virtual and IRL will ultimately fade and the ‘online’ modifier will become a charming bit of history.

Until then, perhaps we should somehow start discriminating doctors who quietly consume from those who curate, create, converse and contribute.  Because in 2012 vernacular, these are our online doctors.


Bill Tontz September 24, 2012 at 7:59 am

Thank you for the post. Online medical information challenges us to be better and to discriminate fact from fiction. This is not the future but the present day.

Lawson Gow September 29, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Eric Topol, in his book The Creative Destruction of Medicine, discusses how technological advances have markedly changed the way we communicate and interact with one another, and even how we think and behave. He analyzes major ways that technology has done this, concluding that these developments have permeated many aspects of our culture. However, Topol feels as if the medical community is considerably behind. When this comprehensive incorporation of new technology into the medical world finally occurs, it will, he says, “undoubtedly reshape the future of medicine.”
Medicine has certainly begun to increasingly make use of new technology, and as doctors “go digital,” there is language of “real” vs. “virtual” that Nathan Jurgenson refers to as “digital dualism.” He argues, however, that digital dualism is a fallacy, saying “I want to argue that the digital and physical are increasingly meshed, and want to call this opposite perspective that implodes atoms and bits rather than holding them conceptually separate augmented reality.”
While it is interesting to think that the future will see an ever-fading line between the two, I have to wonder what will be lost in this new doctor-patient relationship structure. I rode in a taxi two days ago and my driver told me he recently Skyped with his Doctor, showing him a rash on his stomach. While it is obviously wonderful that he was able to engage with his personal doctor in such a way, especially when he would otherwise not have been able to see him, his story, and others similar, raise a couple of concerns. First, what does this mean for the future of the doctor-patient relationship? Doesn’t this type of new-world, high-tech interaction cheapen this relationship to some extent? Don’t we lose something here? And second, what about effectiveness? How clearly was the doctor able to diagnose this rash? Do we lose quality of diagnosis and treatment with this approach?
I just thought these were interesting issues, and perhaps concerns we need to carry with us as the medical community DOES incorporate more and more technology into their practice. It is important to note, however, that the use of technology, without a doubt, does bring benefits with it too. Not the least of which, as Bill points out, is the ability to widely disperse and share medical information.

Connie Budin October 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Here is a sure tell sign of the 21st century: people are now using Facebook and Twitter for medical advice. As a college student with Twitter, I decided to search “doctor” and the top two choices were @ClevelandClinic and @MayoClinic, both of whom I had already been following (!/search/users/doctor). I strongly suggest becoming a follower if you are not already!
Though I am a follower of health sites for healthy living tips and a user of WebMD, I am also a frequent visitor to my primary physician when I believe a real medical condition has come up. A family friend studying pre-med told me during his shadow hours this past summer that it was very common for the doctor he was watching under to step out of the patient’s room to Google his or her symptoms. What does this say about those who are attending medical school to become our doctors? Are they expected to diagnose with their learned knowledge or with their learned skill of social media?
I wonder if people this day and age are either untrustworthy toward those involved in medicine or if there are simply more people without health insurance; unable to visit a doctor. As stated in another individual’s comment, this is not the future, it is the present. I prefer learned knowledge of an live analysis of my diagnosis by a doctor, but time of 2012 vernacular will only tell.

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