Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Internet Medical Jungle

Over the last 20 years the development of the internet and digital medical records has changed medicine dramatically.  For physicians, the rapid access and exchange, of important information about patients has enabled the delivery of faster medical care than ever before.  For patients and parents/caregivers, there is an ever-growing amount information which is accessible, about nearly every possible subject in medicine.  The difficulty is filtering the information, first in terms of topic and secondly determining the accuracy and validity of the information.  Search engines such as Google, Bing, etc… provides the ability to pull in information at lightning speed from across the globe and then list them numerically in order of how close the information matches the search words.  We commonly perceive the higher a website is listed on the search engine the more important, valid or relevant is its information to our question. However in reality, this is not always the case.  Owners of websites can pay the search engines to raise their site to a higher to increase their “visibility” to people using their search engine.

Businesses have long known the value of marketing and that the internet provides a cheap, rapidly-accessible, customizable method to reach millions of potential customers.  Healthcare providers and institutions have also realized this, albeit slower, specifically that this can be a valuable way to market themselves and their services.  The quality of any information available on the internet must be evaluated on an individual basis.  Be wary of claims made by individuals or organizations promising excellent treatment outcomes, over a short period of time, with low recurrence rates, using simple, painless, minimally-invasive or nonsurgical methods/procedures.  Many times these are marketing ploys and not scientifically-proven methods which are based in any high-level medical evidence.  If the promises seem to be too good to believe, they probably are not good options of treatment.  Often these promises play on parents/caregivers emotions, who are trying to find the best treatment for their child.

Caveat emptor.

Buyer beware.

Next blogpost: How do I find a physician for my child with spinal deformity?

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