27-May-2017

Health information on internet may reduce trust in doctors

New York, May 5: Looking up health related information on the internet can cause parents to not trust the diagnosis made by their child's doctor, potentially leading to delayed treatment, a new study warns, Deccan Herald reported.
 
Researchers from Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in the US recruited 1,374 parent participants who were presented with a profile of a child who "has had a rash and worsening fever for 3 days."
 
The participants, who averaged 34 years of age and had at least one child under age 18, were then divided into groups.
 
In the first group, participants received screen shots of internet information describing some symptoms of scarlet fever, an infectious disease linked to Strep throat that causes rash and fever.
 
Unless treated with antibiotics, scarlet fever can develop into rheumatic fever and, in some cases, lead to heart damage.
 
The second group of participants received screen shots listing select symptoms of Kawasaki disease, a condition in which blood vessels throughout the body become inflamed. It also is accompanied by fever and rash.
 
Prompt treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs is needed to help prevent life-threatening complications such as aneurisms.
 
A third set of parents, the control group, received no internet screen shots. All participants then read that the doctor had diagnosed the child with scarlet fever.
 
Compared to the control group, in which 81.0 per cent of parents reported trusting the physician, 90.5 per cent of parents who had received scarlet fever symptom screen shots reported trusting the physician.
 
Furthermore, fewer parents in the scarlet fever cohort answered that they were likely to seek a second opinion (21.4 per cent), compared to the control group (42.0 per cent).
 
Conversely, only 61.3 per cent of participants who had viewed the screen shots listing rash and fever as symptoms of Kawasaki disease reported trusting the doctors' diagnosis, and 64.2 per cent reported that they were likely to seek a second opinion.
 
Although there are many advantages of having easily accessible medical information available on the internet, the findings show that "internet-driven interpretation of symptoms" can compromise trust between a doctor and patient, researchers said.
 
"The internet is a powerful information tool, but it is limited by its inability to reason and think," said Ruth Milanaik, an associate professor at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.
 
"Simply entering a collection of symptoms in a search engine may not reflect the actual medical situation at hand," Milanaik said.
 
"These computer-generated diagnoses may mislead patients or parents and cause them to question their doctors' medical abilities and seek a second opinion, thereby delaying treatment," she added.