Consumer access to health care information: its effect on the physician-patient relationship

Jack Jacob
Alaska Medicine 2002, 44 (4): 75-82
Studies have shown that physicians exchange minimal information with patients during a patient encounter. Yet patients of all socioeconomic backgrounds increasingly desire and seek medical information, especially over the Internet. This change in patient behavior is likely to have a profound effect on the physician-patient relationship. Many physicians react defensively when patients bring them information on their condition with questions about traditional and non-traditional therapies. This can degrade trust and communication, both key elements in the physician-patient relationship. There are several models of the physician-patient relationship that are described. The deliberative or collaborative model, where the physician helps the patient choose their preferred health-related values, represents our societal norm. Such a model is conducive to physicians acting as a directed facilitator for medical information acquisition by patients. It is also consistent with patients' desire to obtain on-line information under the guidance of a physician. Such a model can not only aid patient's acquisition of medical information, but also help patients assess the quality of information, and help them apply the information to their personal situation. The adoption of this new role for physicians is likely to enhance the therapeutic aspects of the physician-patient relationship.

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