How many times did you Google the last illness your child had? Perhaps you researched the latest vaccine or developmental breakthrough. Many parents use the Internet as a means for medical knowledge. While I’m all for getting the most information you can possibly obtain on any given illness or condition, it’s something I’d do after visiting my pediatrician, but never in place of a doctor’s visit.
Yet apparently that’s just what some parents may be doing, according to a report by Dr. Purvi Shroff from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Shroff presented her findings last week at the 2011 national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston, and said that “one in eight parents goes online for medical information about their child’s condition before taking the child to the emergency room.”
After interviewing 24o parents with Internet access who brought their child to the ER, 12 percent of the parents said they had consulted the Web about their child’s condition within the past 24 hours. Oddly enough, the most common websites were WebMD and Wikipedia, and “very few parents used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, run by the government, or the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children website.”
Wikipedia is far from ideal in gauging a medical prognosis. I do use WebMD myself but never in place of a doctor’s advice. WebMD offers more in-depth explanation than other websites. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that most parents don’t use the Centers For Disease Control as a source of information. It is not only cumbersome to navigate, but the language is stilted and user-unfriendly. In addition, what little information you do find there is generic at best. HealthyChildren.org is only slightly better.
Common sense would dictate that parents should take their child to a doctor or hospital first and foremost, especially when contemplating any possible emergency room situation. Only after a physical exam should parents turn to the Internet and consult a multitude of websites and books in learning about any condition. It’s also vital to understand that everyone has a different skill set, command of language and ability to separate truth from fiction, so not every parent can determine what is useful online or not.
I tend to think parenting magazines and blogs do a better job of presenting parents with well-researched medical information and personal accounts than the government websites. In my search to find everything I could on my daughter’s Hashimoto’s disease, the larger websites offered nothing more than textbook definitions. I found the most helpful information on sites tailored to the disease itself, which contained a mixture of both medical research and personal stories. I armed myself with every bit of knowledge I could learn about and then discussed with her endocrinologist at each doctor visit. In many instances I learned about breakthrough research and treatments.
In some instances, the doctor would point out how and why one thing or another didn’t apply to my daughter’s individual circumstance. All of the research I did (and still do) provided a healthy and open dialogue between the doctor and me, which has been vital in the treatment process. But this is a chronic disease. Any kind of immediate health issue, I take my kids to the doctor ASAP, and I’d never read an online article in place of a pediatrician’s exam.
What are your favorite medical websites? Do you discuss your online research with your pediatrician? Would you ever use the internet in place of a doctor’s visit?