With the increasing prevalence of cyberchondria, it might not be a surprise if patients turn to your practice with a comprehensive self-diagnosis. As the new value-based care delivery models encourage patients to engage in self-care, they often resort to Dr. Google to look up their symptoms. However, patient self-diagnosis is something that healthcare providers have long been struggling with. Hence, emerged the need for effective strategies to deal with it.
According to a Pew Research Center report, 35 percent of American adults say that they have gone online to diagnose their (or someone else’s) medical condition. Interestingly, one in twenty Google searches is related to healthcare today. However, according to a Harvard Medical School 2015 study, online resources supporting patient self-diagnosis often contain inaccurate information. So researchers entered different cystotomes into multiple online symptom checkers to check the credibility of the resources. Unfortunately, they ended up yielding an accurate patient diagnosis only 34 percent of the time.
Hence, one of the primary roles of healthcare providers is to dismiss patient self-diagnosis, but in a manner that doesn’t offend the patients. Outright rejection might result in feelings of discontentment on the part of the patient that the provider didn’t listen to him. Also, research suggests that patients who self-diagnose are also more likely to comply with provider care plans. Therefore, it is a promising opportunity for providers to engage patients and achieve better health outcomes.
Here are four ways providers can address patient self-diagnosis:
Encourage patients to Keep Searching Online
Although this might seem a little off-track and counter-intuitive, providers can mitigate several problems from patient self-diagnosis by simply leaning into the issue. First, it is advised that the providers encourage the patients to continue searching online, acknowledging and validating their approach to manage health outcomes. Then, leveraging their patients’ desire for information, providers can engage in more profound levels of trust and exam conversations. Finally, they can encourage the patients to dig deeper, so their self-diagnosis becomes accurate.
Provide Reliable Resources for Self-Diagnosis
This is perhaps the best strategy to counter patient self-diagnosis. First, the provider should provide them with a list of authentic and reliable resources to conduct self-diagnosis. Then, they should direct them to a website that contains credible medical information such as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. These websites offer a reliable combination of accurate medical information. Interestingly, most of these resources can be linked to your medical practice website, as well. So, the providers can also share a list with the patients through an email or link to specific content on social media.
Generate Own Expert Content
Patients inherently trust information when it is available in an easy-to-read, well-organized, and easy-to-understand format. The reliability of data increases manifold when it comes to authors with medical credentials or authentic medical authorities. Hence, the providers might want to publish their expert content on their website for patients to read and assist in their self-diagnosis. This is a ripe opportunity for patient engagement and patient marketing strategies. Further, producing original content on their channel can help the providers establish themselves as medical thought-leaders.
Encourage Patients to Discuss Their Research
Encouraging patients to discuss their research during the exam can help dismiss their incorrect assumptions and correct their self-diagnosis. This offers the providers the opportunity to provide compassionate care, educate them through their uncertainty and anxiety, and fix their false research. Providers can then very politely counter any incorrect diagnosis by identifying any misleading resources, inaccurate diagnoses, and so forth.
Dealing with patients who self-diagnose requires a shift in the mindset. By embracing an encouraging role, providers can create strategies that can help correct patient self-diagnosis. However, these strategies should necessarily be shaped around communication, education and awareness, and patient marketing.
Summer Larson’s background in healthcare stretches over 11 years. He is a well-renowned health IT expert and regularly contributes to popular blogs and websites. She covers topics ranging from health reforms to the application of IT in healthcare. In 2013 he formed EMR Specialist, a company specializing in assisting providers with adopting and implementing electronic health records (EHR) and working with EMR for small practices on usability and certification projects. Summer Larson is also an avid Star Wars fan.