Has online health information changed the physician-patient relationship?

The Journal of Internet Medical Research shows that “Internet health information seeking can improve the patient-physician relationship depending on whether the patient discusses the information with the physician and on their prior relationship”

 As patients have better access to health information through the Internet and expect to be more engaged in health decision making, traditional models of the patient-provider relationship and communication strategies must be revisited to adapt to this changing demographic.

Physicians often don’t have the time to explain the complex world of medicine to patients. While more people are going online for health information the Internet can be like a jungle with many false trails to supposed health information.  For the most part, it’s up to online health seekers to determine what is “real” and ‘trusted” as opposed to false and fake.  Within lies a great opportunity for pharma companies.

Medical information on pharma product sites can be hard to understand, even for those with a college education.  Very few pharma site content is written by people who understand how to write copy for an audience(s). Most pharma companies are also reluctant to include links to good health sites and they still are not thinking of using a rollover for complex medical terms.  This is essentially driving online health seekers to other sites which is a lost opportunity.

Physicians too need to rethink the patient relationship.  They need to understand what the patients know and, more importantly, what they don’t know or knowledge that is misleading and false.  While an informed patient is good to treat, an ill informed patient can play havoc with outcomes.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Pharma health information must be easy to read and to understand and websites should do as much as possible to direct online health seekers to credible and trusted health information online.

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