An anxious patient contacted me on Thursday evening. She had a pregnancy-related discomfort and decided to search on Google for the reason. She became concerned about what she read. She came to the conclusion from what she read that she had a particularly serious pregnancy complication.
She then contacted me, convinced that she had this pregnancy complication. I advised her that the symptoms she had were not indications of the pregnancy complication that she concluded she had from what she read online. Indeed her symptoms were common in pregnancy and were not associated with any pregnancy complication.
There have been many other occasions when patients have decided to do their own investigations and self-diagnosis online. I have never had a patient say to me that she was reassured by the information she read online.
The most likely patient to do this is the more anxious patient. She does it to try to allay her anxiety. But the incorrect information she is given online makes her anxiety worse.
There is the opposite danger where there could be a serious pregnancy complication and information read online does not help the patient to recognise the seriousness of the situation.
I tell patients all the time on they have question or concern I want them to contact me. This can be by phone during the office during office hours and at any time online. The online options to contact me are my website’s ‘contact us’ icon, email and social media private messaging using Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and LinkedIn. If it is a serious matter and I am not immediately available or it is about going into labour then the Birth Unit is available to be contacted 24 hours a day. If you phone the Birth Unit you will speak with an experienced midwife who will be able to advise you what to do.
My availability to be contacted directly is only for current patients. On Friday I was contacted about a pregnancy concern by a pregnant woman with a phone number suggesting she lives in Florida USA. My secretary replied on my behalf suggesting she raised her concern with her obstetrician.