Dr. Google may not always be your friend
Posted By Dr. Sara Connolly, Bundoo Medical Director
Now, before you send me hate mail about how doctors just want to deprive you of information in order to make more money, let me clarify. Google has a place in all of our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t Google something or other. All I’m saying is that Dr. Google does not always serve us well.
Let me give you an example. Search “blood in diaper” and the information that pops up includes constipation, a very mild, non-life threatening condition, and colitis, a potentially very serious disease, on the same page of search results. Both are actual causes of blood in the stool. Constipation and small rectal fissures that result in bleeding are very common in babies. Colitis, fortunately, is very uncommon in babies, much more serious, and more worrisome. Dr. Google forgets to mention that one is very likely and one very unlikely, and so the worrying begins. Parents call me, upset and anxious with their imagination taking them to very dark places — in fact, this happened to me yesterday.
Want another example? Google “fever and weight loss,” and you will be updating your last will and testament before you even get called into the nurses’ station to be weighed.
I’m not advocating that parents stay off-line. On the contrary, we now have the ability to educate and inform ourselves much easier than ever before and that’s great. For example, when the AAP released its safe sleep update last month, parents could log on and read the guidelines themselves instead of waiting months for the information to trickle down to their doctors first. I just want parents to use their resources to relieve anxieties, not to increase them.
Here’s where I would start. Stay away from general searches. Ask your trusted healthcare professionals which medical information sites they trust. There are many official-sounding sites that spew misinformation packaged up very formally, but that just want to scare you or steal your money. At Bundoo.com, all our articles are based on guidelines written or supported by the AAP and/or ACOG. We present evidenced-based medicine where it exists and attempt to point out when it does not. Become familiar with one or two key sites so when you need to search, you know where to go.
Use the information in conjunction with your pediatrician, OB, or healthcare provider. For example, search Bundoo for “4 month well child visit” to prepare for the upcoming visit. Or search Bundoo.com for “molluscum contagiosum” after your child has been given the diagnosis. Learn from the sites you use, and use them to ask questions of your doctors. If your child has a special medical issue, like diabetes, ask your endocrinologist which sites offer the most useful support and information for parents, and then go to those first.
People say doctors hate when patients Google and that is simply not true. We like that our families want more education and information and are able to access that from home. We just want you to have safe, reliable information and to realize that Dr. Google is not in your home and often adds to, instead of alleviating, your anxiety.