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Is health 2.0 putting physicians into the same boat as newspapers?

2 min read


Technology and change — two words that go together like peanut butter and jelly.

According to Texas-based pediatric gastroenterologist Bryan Vartabedian, those terms seem to have a different meaning in the medical industry. Though it has used new technologies, and indeed, benefited from them in many cases, adapting to changes has not always been easy for the medical field.

“What physicians do a generation from now may be unrecognizable to today’s practitioner. Physicians need to shape their role proactively or risk having it shaped for them,” said Vartabedian, writing on this topic on his blog, 33 charts, this month.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project released data this week that show to how the hunting and gathering of health information online has grown.

“Searching for health information, an activity that was once the primary domain of older adults, is now the third-most popular online activity for all Internet users 18 and older,” the study’s authors report.

More data, compiled via a Harris Interactive survey conducted earlier this year, show that while 4 in 5 American adults use the Internet, 88% of those who have used the Web have searched for health information, with the vast majority of that group reporting they were successful in finding what they were looking for.

Vartabedian isn’t sure success would be defined in the same way by many physicians.

“Experience is the only process that can delineate information,” he writes. “Or in the case of the infirm, it’s clinical judgment and experience that makes that myriad of medical literature applicable to an individual’s case.”

He offers a warning to his fellow practicioners, however, that they should ignore this trend of increasingly informed patients at their own peril.

“How physicians work with empowered patients in an increasingly controlled and technical medical world should be the subject of intense discussion,” he writes, mentioning that from the top down, the industry still fails to grasp this. “Ultimately they will. Or risk going the way of the newsman.”