How Has the Internet Empowered People Looking for Medical Solutions?

How Has the Internet Empowered People Looking for Medical Solutions?

There were times when doctors were considered next to God. They were looked upon as the only “saviors” after mother. Those were the times when merely visiting a doctor comforted you and made you feel better almost at once.

During those times, it was important for the doctor to figure out what ailed you. He lifted your eyelids, peered down your throat and listened to your heartbeat. His interest in diagnosing your illness clinically rather than mechanically through tests was mitigating.

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Now things have changed. As per mandate protocols of hospitals and clinics, a doctor must nowadays see a fixed number of patients per month. Thus, the doctor does not have the necessary time to listen to, develop a rapport with or win the trust of the patient. Within a few predetermined minutes of your visit, a doctor hardly has time to look at your name and ascertain your problem through a conversation.

He proceeds with standard questions, writes a prescription and orders a lab test. A doctor rarely finds it necessary to spot personally what exactly is wrong with your feeble body. He does a physical examination, if deemed inescapable, with latex gloves and a mask on. When perceived really sick, he recommends you a specialist you’ve never seen before.

Most of the twentieth century was the era of “doctor knows the best.” However, with patients coming under the influence of digital revolution, blind reliance on doctors dissipated. “Blind trust” got replaced with “informed trust.” The first medical contact, which used to be with the family doctor had been slowly replaced, has not been replaced by the Internet.

Unlike before, patients are now equipped not only with the information collected from the Internet but also the medical vocabulary before visiting the doctor. All these things were once restricted to medical professionals only.

Moreover, people had to go visit a doctor and meet him or her personally to seek treatment. They had to make an appointment with them, even to assess whether he or she is capable of fulfilling their medical needs or not.

The advances made in their field of digital connectivity through the internet have revolutionized this outlook as well. Patients can now book appointments and seek consultation online. This can be done even for a doctor located in another city or a different country altogether!

Who Is Responsible For This Transformation?

The root of this change is the growing influence of information and communication technology (ICT), and particularly the Internet. The Internet has actually empowered patients by giving them access to different websites. These website contains vast information on all medical problems, discussion forums, virtual communities, e-mail exchanges and more.

Many surveys consistently show that 60 to 80 percent of world wide web users have used the Internet to obtain health information.It has armed people with knowledge and by giving them and their loved ones greater control over their own care.

As per a recent Internet study of a website in five languages, 73 percent indicated doctors as their favourite source of health information. However, 45 percent also used the Internet. On the other hand, 19 percent of the people mentioned the Internet and not the doctor as a favourite source.

How Has Internet Empowered Contemporary Patient?

The Internet users have acquired a dynamic stance by having perpetual access to the opening wedge. They start with Google search engine, and from there, they go on to browse on a plethora of websites and blogs. A patient finds information on illness, symptoms, medications and costs of hospitalization and treatment before even going for medical consultation.

People search thousands of health-related websites and millions of health-related blogs each day. With this, the possibility for rapid changes in patients’ behaviour and outlook are enormous.

The Internet has put the patient in a position, which is as active as the physician’s. Keeping in mind this new patient behaviour, many hospitals and doctors have made improvements in their use of ICT, like introducing fully computerized hospital management processes and applying technology in all phases of patient care.

Doctors no longer solely hold supreme knowledge. Well-informed patients now increasingly question them about their health status. A range of medical websites and blogs now lets patients become more involved in their own car. They can learn about their condition, access and contribute to their online health record.

Gone are the days when one would have to blindly follow the tests prescribed by doctors. Nowadays, one simple search on the Internet would yield the reasons, symptoms and pathological diagnosis correlation of a medical test.

This empowers the patients and relatives about the disease, line of treatment and what to expect. It also gives them confidence and awareness to deal better with the situation. However, information overload may confuse people and creates confusion. But as we all agree that one has to wisely choose what is available on the Internet.

How Has The Internet Benefitted Medical Tourists?

The biggest reapers of the benefits of the Internet have been the medical tourists. Now they are open to travel across millions of miles to seek high quality and affordable medical treatment. They have all the information available on the internet – from best hospitals in the world to the best surgeons and cost of medical treatment in one country to another.

The advances made in the world of digital connectivity now allows them to have all the information that they need to make a wise treatment decision for themselves.

What Do Statistics Say?

As revealed by a study of 500 “health seekers,” 55 percent of the patients obtained information online before visiting the doctor. More than 32 percent sought information about a particular doctor or a hospital. Nearly 38 percent considered their search of websites a success. It led them to ask their doctor new questions or even opt for a second opinion.

Advancement of genetic, behavioral, and digital tools designed to monitor and manage personal health are also a gift of the Internet.

A wide variety of personal healthcare appliances now available online come with options to keep the records of your health. Patients can record their blood sugar levels and blood pressure and create a chart for themselves to check progress. You can take a backup of the reading to your cloud account and share it with the doctor. Soon, you will be able to shar your X-Ray report with your doctor over Whatsapp before you even exit the pathology lab!

Educating and empowering patients is not the only potential of the internet. It also supports doctors, practitioners and professionals by keeping them abreast with recent updates on health information. They can find information on health related policies and guidelines and training and professional development.

The Internet has surely brought to our palms a wide variety of options for pathological tests and medicine alternates. People can also see feedbacks and reviews for a doctor, medicine, hospital and therapy. A major change is clearly noticeable in how we evaluate our options. Word of mouth and personal advice will never lose their importance. But for sure, the online data now backing up the findings helps us take more informed decisions.

The Role of Online Marketplaces

Among billion users of the Internet, there are “medical providers” who have connected with patients worldwide electronically. The medical facilitators such as MediGence in India and others act as a bridge between the hospitals and the patient. They offer patients attractive treatment packages and all the help that they would need upon their arrival in the country. They even let you indulge in a bit of leisure along with your medical treatment.

Role of Medical Facilitators

Over time, medical facilitators have helped patients shop for their health needs from the comfort of their homes. This is similar to how you shop for an airline ticket or a hotel room. The patients can finalize a right provider for their treatment. Patients can find and compare hospitals, get free expert opinion and plan their trip with the help of such services. Thus,  patients can easily search, compare and coordinate their medical care online.

On hand access to data and information allows patients to have open dialogues with their doctors about diagnosis and treatment options. Cost estimators increasingly help them understand the intersection of cost and quality in assessing their health care options. They are no longer uninvolved players in the selection of treatment and the use of drugs or health services.

Such medical facilitators also arrange for second opinion from a trustworthy medical institute or a doctor, in case you are thinking about it. If anything, the online marketplaces have brought an unprecedented awareness of the medicines, symptoms, tests and their applications to the affected

Medical tourism is a splurging industry in itself and the Internet is a prime enabler for the same. Browse the tests, fees and all related details from your home location. You can directly fly once you have your itinerary sorted, travel booked and doctor appointments finalized. The internet has made it possible to land in a foreign land and yet be assured of complete arrangements. The arrangements typically include your stay, treatment, doctor, recovery duration and post treatment care. And don’t be worried about follow ups later, the video conferencing makes it all possible as you have a personal appointment with the doctor in his virtual cabin now.

How Does The Future Look Like?

It is estimated that the intensive use of ICT may completely change the role of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and others pretty soon. They will involve in extending emotional and psychological support to patients rather than performing a mechanical job.

There are many interesting ways in which the Internet has contributed to the automation of medical activities. But on the flip side, there are a few drawbacks that come with its use.

There are concerns about the quality of vast and easily accessible information available on the Internet. These concerns include unreliable information leading to wrong diagnosis and misguided self-treatment, language barriers, commercial biases, disagreements with the doctor, unnecessary tests and treatments.

Thus, a doctor’s insight, experience and encouragement are necessary to help the patient accurately interpret and apply the information drawn from the Internet. Doctors can also assist by recommending high-quality websites to the patients and by listing them in information sheets.

There have also been speculations that the excessive use of the Internet could lead to depression or social isolation. Though the analysis to date suggests that there is no consistent major effect of using the Internet, still there is a need for vigilance regarding new and emerging threats to health posed by the Internet.

Investigation of both positive and negative health impacts of this evolving technology must continue. As yet there has been little rigorous research on health effects of the Internet and thus need for high-quality research is called for in this area.

How MediGence Help You?

  • Basic Facilities: MediGence helps in arrangement of medical visa, to and from the airport service, accommodation, meals, appointment with surgeon, lab tests etc.
  • Qualified Panel: MediGence has network of the best surgeons and hospitals, providing supreme healthcare in India.
  • Affordable: What is the Smile Makeover Surgery Costs in India? The expenses incurred in the entire travel for the smile makeover surgery in India are nearly 30% of that in most Western countries..
  • Professionalism: We maintain highest ethics in providing the treatments and the procedures are followed with transparency.
  • Other Services: Our group also takes care of facilities like providing health meals as prescribed by your doctor, planning vacation in India, rejuvenation, rehab facilities.

Last modified on at Sep 12, 2019

Guneet Bhatia

Guneet Bhatia is an avid reader, healthcare writer, and is currently Director of Patient Care Department, MediGence. She has also been featured on many prominent Healthcare portals such as IBTimes, HCIT Expert, Clinician Today.

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