Healthcare News & Insights

More wrong info available to patients: How to handle it

Patients being more prepared for their visits is a good thing in most cases. You want patients to research their care beforehand to cut down on confusion and make sure they know what to expect. But this could actually end up being a double-edged sword for your providers. 

The internet has significantly increased the amount of medical information available to patients and consumers, but that doesn’t mean the info is always accurate, which can cause problems for doctors and hospitals.

A new survey from Merck Manuals found that patients are contacting healthcare organizations more frequently than ever before with questions and concerns about their health. On the surface, this isn’t necessarily an issue.

But that same survey also found that 97% of doctors said patients come to them with misinformation, and 90% believe that misinformation has impacted the frequency of these calls and visits.

Sixty percent of survey respondents said increased info on treatments and symptoms online has led to an increase in visits and calls, while 29% said the increased info actually led to fewer visits.

Assume the worst

Many patients will search for their symptoms online and assume the worst, leading them to head to the doctor or hospital. Finding info online also makes patients more likely to question their providers’ diagnoses or recommendations based on what the Internet says.

Patient empowerment is important, and ultimately it’s up to patients to make the final decisions about their care, but when they believe they know better than providers based on false information, offering the best care becomes more difficult.

“We run into problems when patients go to online sources that aren’t evidence-based medicine,” said Khyati, a physician surveyed by Merck Manuals. “But patients aren’t going to stop looking up their symptoms on the Internet, so it’s up to physicians to direct them to trusted sources.”

Consider posting resources on your hospital’s website or patient portal so they’re still able to access information online, but that information is coming from reliable sources.

Inaccurate info can also be a problem when dealing with patients’ family and friends. They may question providers’ decisions based on what they’ve read and put up fights about care plans or treatments.

While you and your providers want to be respectful of patients’ loved ones, it’s important to remind them that providers are making care decisions based on their extensive medical knowledge, and they’re acting in the patient’s best interest.

To cut down on the confusion and ensure everyone understands the care plan and why your providers made the choices they did, encourage clinical staff to avoid medical jargon whenever possible.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest healthcare news and insights delivered to your inbox.