Dr Aniruddha Malpani, who describes himself as an Angel investor with Malpani Investors, is gaining a lot of attention on LinkedIn by claiming that, “Lots of #doctors don’t like patients who visit #DrGoogle, but I find these #patients are usually smarter and more proactive.”
He admits that “unreliable websites” lead to a “few misconceptions,” but he’s happy to have patients put in the time and effort to get a second opinion from the Internet.
Not only does he find that “proactive patients do better, because they are active partners in their care,” but he also suggests that patients who research their conditions online “get better treatment” because they are able to give insights that helps him prescribe treatment. And so, these pro-active patients end up becoming co-creators of their plan.
Not every doctor agrees with him.
Dr Dr. Sweta Choudhary, a physician with an MBA, counters:
Yes, these patients are proactive…. But once they start googling, they over-analyse simple symptoms or lab reports. Search engines throw up a range of diagnosis including the uncommon ones and this causes considerable stress for the intermediate period till they meet their physician. Have seen highly educated people go through this stress! It’s better to engage with the Doctor than Google.
Dr Malpani replies that choosing between the doctor and the Internet are “Not mutually exclusive options! Make the best of both worlds – each has a complementary role to play 🙂 ”
Another powerful objections to Dr Malpani’s comments comes from a Dr. Ajay Chitte:
Dr Aniruddha Malpani, one more thing sir. Doctors do not treat their own selves and family members because they won’t be subjective about it. If a doctor can’t, how can a layman be subjective about his own self?
Dr Malpani replied with, “He is not treating himself… He is just verifying that the doctor is giving him good advice!”
Dr Chitte was “not against co-treatment plans,” but he thought that “everything on Google points to cancer.”
Dr Chitte was not alone there. Another member of the forum posted a cartoon of a stick figure who thought he had brain cancer after doing a search.
But, Dr Malpani has an answer for those objections, and found himself in agreement with those who had stories of using online research to create better co-treatment plans. “Doctors should respect well informed patients. Good doctors refer their patients to reliable websites ☺️”
Unfortunately, Dr Malpani did not say what those reliable websites were, nor did he comment on the quality of three sites suggested by non-doctors on the thread.
When someone suggested that the reliable websites only advise the most literate, Dr Malpani countered that “Videos can educate illiterate patients very effectively ☺️” Again, Dr Malpani did not tell us where to find the reliable videos.
However, an online search shows that Dr Malpani has spoken on a number of medical subjects, including infertility. He’s also spoken out against “doctor bashing,” and went to the root of the anti-doctor sentiment in Indian that led to a recent strike among junior doctors.
Why is there so much misinformation online? Dr Malpani doesn’t answer that question directly, but perhaps something he says helps us find the answer. “Feelings will always trump reason, especially with such an emotionally charged subject like health and illness.”