Your Doctor Is Probably Googling You Before Your First Appointment

doctor looking upset near computerWhenever you move to a new city or state, what's one of the first things you do? Figure out who your doctors are going to be, amirite? And of course, the way that most of us figure out the right practitioner is by taking to the ever-so-helpful Interwebs, checking out sites like ZocDoc, WebMD, Yelp, and others in the Googlesphere hoping to get the feedback we're looking for to make the right decision.

Well, what if I were to tell you that your doctors are actually Googling you, too. Seriously. Dr. Haider Javed Warraich recently wrote in a blog for The New York Times that he knows a lot of physicians that Google their patients before they come in. And what he says about the common practice now makes me a little concerned.

Warraich asks, "It surprises me that more physicians don't pause and think about what it means for the patient-doctor relationship. What if one finds something that is not warm and fuzzy?"

Um ... chyeah. I don't like this. Not one bit.


Before you get all radical on me, I do see both sides, the positives and the negatives.

If there are things in your past you don't want to share with your doctor, you're entitled not to. I'm talking things that have nothing to do with your health. Maybe you dated a celebrity that's now totally washed up (embarrassing). Maybe you just went through an awkward phase where you kept a blog entirely about sock puppets. Those things have nothing to do with your health and your doctor doesn't need to know about 'em. Those are the things that may make going in to see a total stranger feel awkward. Those are the things you don't want him or her to be thinking about while examining you.

But what if your doctor does their research and they find you have a history playing sports you never mentioned? Or perhaps you were a world champion in the dead lift 10 years ago (OK, that's a stretch)? These are things that you may not say, things that can help the doctor diagnose your pains, ailments, or what have you.

At the end of the day, though, what matters the most is that the patient is open with their physician about the things that matter. It's the patient's responsibility to seek out the treatment. It's not the doctor's responsibility to dig up information so they can treat them appropriately.

Personally, I'd rather the doctor not rush through his five-minute meeting with me (making it $5/minute per my copay) and actually take the time to ask me more things. Better five extra minutes of face time than five minutes apart trying to dig up the juice. 

How do you feel knowing that doctors commonly Google patients?


Image via Bernd Vogel/Corbis

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