When I finish a history and exam I always ask parents what they understand about their child’s problem. It’s a critical question. It helps me understand how they see their child.
When answering the question, parents often introduce their comments with, “I know I shouldn’t be on the Internet but…”
Translation: “I know as my doctor you’ve always been my sole source of information but I really want to look around and, quite honestly, I feel awkward admitting it to you.”
It’s an interesting way to open a discussion and it says a lot about where we’re at with patients and where patients are headed (or have already gone). Most importantly it says parents feel embarrassed admitting that they’re working to learn about their child’s problem.
The medical profession has a long way to go as far as surrendering its stranglehold on information. It has a longer way to go in helping patients achieve online health literacy. And while much of what’s available to patients may not represent anything worth seeing, our recognition of their drive to participate is the first step in accepting them as thinking partners in a healing relationship.