Doctors often avoid an online presence for fear that they’ll be approached by strangers with questions. I haven’t found this to be the case myself. I’m very visible in these parts yet I’m shocked by how few people ask questions about their kids.
Susannah Fox today touched on the issue today. She arranged some recent Pew data which suggest that very few internet users pose questions to physicians online. What’s far more common, however, is for folks to pose questions for friends and family.
These numbers further support the established idea that physicians are not the sole source of information for inquiring minds. Community is increasingly where people turn for front-line queries.
But rather than choosing to avoid professionals, Susannah’s findings may reflect the unavailability of doctors to answer questions online. We know that many physicians still avoid public dialog. Or perhaps there aren’t the platforms that we imagine there should be. Despite the availability of just about everything in the infosphere, there are few established, reliable venues for patient questions. And for good reason. Stories of personal health are complicated business. To properly address a patient-specific question requires a thorough understanding of an individual’s story. Also important is the story of a patient’s family, their data and the variables of their environment. Increasingly, patients know this.
I’m convinced that as the consuming public develops a more mature relationship with information, they better understand the separate roles of the community and that of a trusted health provider.