Patients often have a difficult time understanding their medical problems or the recommended treatment. Many tend to tune out medical words, making it seem like what you say to them goes “in one ear and out the other”. I have been astonished multiple times when people call asking a question that I have explained to them at great length previously.
In attempting to always be “The-Most-Excellent-Doctor-Ever,” I found myself distressed when patients looked at me with blank confused faces as I tried to draw their surgery for them, or write them a large list of post-operative things to expect.
This has changed for the better ever since I began showing patients how to look up their problems on the Internet. Even educated and computer-savvy patients do not realize how much information they can find about their medical problem on the right Internet sites. This answers a lot of their questions, calms down the anxious ones, and prepares them for participating in care decisions.
Our office has a computer in each exam room (EMR), so I show them the sites right there during the post-exam discussion. I start with Google-Images, which will show them 4,000 images of their problem or surgery. Patients just need you to write out the correct medical term or terms. For example, “ankle bimalleolar fracture,” “ankle fracture treatment,” and “ankle fracture surgery” will all give you different sets of pictures, and your patients will probably want to look at all three.
From there, they can click right to Google-Web or Video to read articles or see movies (they can even see their surgery if they wish).
Some other useful web sites include Web-MD, or for orthopedics – Orthoinfo.org (written for laymen by the American Academy of Orthopedics), POSNA.org (Pediatric Orthopedic articles), and ORLive.com (videos of all kinds of surgeries!)
My patients love this and are very appreciative of being better informed. They can spend as much or as little of their own time as they want, and they end up with a much greater understanding of their treatment.