Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more.
February 5, 2016
How many Google searches have I done about any particular disease, drug, symptom? So many.
Then, I thought about hospital waiting rooms. While patients and families wait for the clinician to see them, how many people fear what they have read, won’t ask questions to clarify whether what they read has anything to do with them, and suffer in embarrassed anxiety?
I googled the following question: “How many patients Google their symptoms?”
I got 38,400,000 hits.
In 2011, Dr. Zachary F. Meisel wrote on Time.com that physicians should get used to patients coming in with lots of information and misinformation, with printed out webpages with symptoms, pictures, and summary information. At the time, he wrote that physicians should best guide their patients to credible sites to at least get reliable information. Today, this is even more relevant.
Instead of debating whether patients should or should not Google their symptoms, Dr. Meisel thinks we should be asking how we can “translate this phenomenon into better health for their patients and the public?”
Asking patients what they have read about their condition and what their concerns and fears are about what they read seems like a good idea. We already know that what patients do not say about what they know or what they do is a risk factor.
And how about encouraging patients to use their time in the waiting area to productively read about their condition online — pointing them, as Dr. Meisel suggests, to places where they can get good information? Doing this also means creating a waiting area that supports learning.
Good students are those who can engage with information at the time they most want it. The strong and immediate desire to know more about what is happening with them or those they love is a strong motivator.
How can we take advantage of this teachable moment to push into healthier living?
The whole environment must support learning, honest communication, and be responsive to the needs of those within them. Here are some ideas:
Also, don’t worry about the cost to do all this. It’s very little compared to cost of health illiteracy and lack of patient engagement and involvement in their own health.
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