Making Cancer Decisions and the Internet

In Breast Cancer, Creating Happiness, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

I recently came across this article that provided some, what I found to be, very startling information about how patients are making their choices for healthcare providers based upon some very interesting factors. For me, the two that stood out the most was the selecting of a doctor based upon ratings shown on the provider’s website and the ability to make appointments online.

If we all just keep in mind that everything that we read is not always true, we might make better choices about how we can use the Internet to enhance our decision making rather than making it the source for that purpose when it comes to our health – and ultimately, perhaps our lives.Barbara Jacoby

The idea of selecting a doctor based upon current information shown on the site and favorable reviews is probably one of the saddest ones for me as a patient advocate. If for no other reason, it seems to me that people need to realize that the patient reviews posted on a doctor’s website may not really give you a true picture of that provider. Often times, people will post a favorable review because they have been asked to do so or are somehow related to the practice or someone at that practice who may not truly believe what they have written but will receive some side benefit for having done that post. By the same token, a person may post a negative rating because they don’t like a doctor’s way of presenting them with the information that they are given or are bothered by having had a bad experience with a staff member or just have a personal grudge against the provider.

This is not to say that reviews are to be totally disregarded. They, in fact, can be quite useful when considered in making a final decision but not as the sole way in which to select a healthcare provider. If you are looking to find a new doctor, referrals should be requested from family and/or friends or co-workers or any other medical professionals that you might know. First person knowledge that others have based upon their own experiences and interactions should be a first step in your selection. Then the Internet becomes a great tool to determine a whole host of other information that should provide the doctor’s background, years of service, specialty and even whether they are located at an office that is easily accessible for you. And, if you want to check reviews at this point, these should be reviewed with a very careful eye.

With regard to making a choice of a doctor based upon being able to make an appointment online, this may be an option that is indeed appealing, especially for general annual physicals, etc. But, it seems that for the majority of contacts made with our doctors, they are as a result of specific issues where we may need more immediate attention and direction and information that can’t be handled with an online appointment. Therefore, to make the choice of a doctor based upon the fact that you can make an online appointment might need to be reconsidered as a deciding factor because of its very limited use.

Most importantly, making the choice of a medical provider based upon their online information and presence and reviews is not in any person’s best interest. Your health is just way too important to screen for your medical team members through such a process. Your health and ultimately, healthcare is just too important to give it over to online information. Even in researching treatment information, it is of no real value to a person until it is discussed and shared with a trusted medical provider who knows your medical history and all of the factors related to you and all aspects of your health in order to decide whether it will be of appropriate consideration for you personally. So why would you want to give your healthcare over to someone based upon Internet information any quicker than you would treat yourself medically based upon Internet information. If we all just keep in mind that everything that we read is not always true, we might make better choices about how we can use the Internet to enhance our decision making rather than making it the source for that purpose when it comes to our health – and ultimately, perhaps our lives.

Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.