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Friday 20th April 2018

Cyberchondriacs should not be dismissed

24th February 2010

Dr Anthea Martin, Senior Medical Adviser with Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland warns doctors against dismissing all web-wise patients as 'cyberchondriacs'.


A new study has indicated that GPs feel intimidated by web-wise patients arriving in their surgeries who have apparently spent hours researching symptoms on the internet.

GP reactions ranged from considerable anxiety to feeling threatened or challenged.

The idea of having to go through a pile of information in a 10-minute consultation was also disconcerting for others with some GPs frightened that they would lose control of the consultation after patients had used the internet and possibly discovered something they as a GP did not understand.

The study, led by North London GP Dr Sanjiv Ahluwalia and published in the British Journal of General Practice, is the first in the UK to look at GP attitudes to such a situation.

It found that GPs were also concerned that the information the patient may arrive with may be inaccurate, misleading or raise expectations to unrealistic levels.

But it was not all negative and some GPs felt “excited” when they discovered a patient had done some research online while others found ways of coping with their negative responses.

These ranged from playing for time to openly admitting their ignorance or showing respect for the patients’ information.

But discarding that information from the patient is not a good approach.

Doctors should not dismiss web-wise patients, they should listen and consider the information presented carefully, otherwise they run the risk of missing an important medical problem.


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