The Internet – too much of a good thing

Posted on August 15, 2012


information overload

Knowledge is power and making an informed decision requires information. That’s what the Internet is for, right? I agree, with some reservations.

I have been having lots of pain in my right hip and it’s getting worse, not better. This is in spite of resting it, which has been driving me crazy, since I love to walk. So I decided to see a doctor.

My very specific requirements for this doctor:

**orthopedic doctor with a sports medicine focus
**specializing in hips
**affiliated with New England Baptist Hospital (Boston), a world-wide leader in joint repair and replacement.

1. Internet as an information source.

The Internet is perfect for this type of search. I was able to find a few doctors who fit the bill. I also wanted a doctor who would really listen to me and my concerns. Time to look at online doctor reviews. The doctor I finally chose got consistently good reviews, with patients consistently giving him high marks for his people skills, as well as his medical skills.

Lesson learned:

The Internet is a great resource for information. The more specific you can be with your search, the better your results. You may have to be iterative since you may not know exactly what you’re looking for initially.

2. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true.

When I called the doctor’s office to make an appointment, I wanted to be sure that this doctor was the right one for me. Several other doctors I had called only do hip replacement surgery and nothing else, even though their websites say otherwise. I sincerely hope that I’m not at that point yet. The first thing I asked the assistant was if I could explain my situation to see if the doctor took these types of cases. Of course, I also wanted to be sure he took my insurance since I’ve learned the hard way I’ll end up with a really BIG bill otherwise.

Lesson learned:

Find a way to verify information you find on the Internet; the best way is to find an independent source. Ask lots of questions.

3. Does actual reality match virtual reality?

I was nervous meeting the doctor, since I’m a person who’s easily intimidated by anything medical. Well, I’m happy to say that he was just as personable and as knowledgeable as the reviews said. He carefully went over my symptoms and explained the next steps. Good news is that I don’t have arthritis. He suspects a torn hip cartilage, so I am scheduled for a contrast MRI.

Lesson learned:

There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting.

4. Really think about the information sources.

Back home, I dutifully did more research on contrast MRIs. This was my first big mistake. I did find several online hip forums that discussed this, but every single entry talked about how painful they were and how useless. Mmmm, I had one of these several years ago and a. it was not painful and b. it helped diagnose pain in my left hip.

I also did research on hip arthoscopies.   I read sad tales of people still being in lots of pain a year after the surgery, of people feeling they were worse off after the surgery.  Based on what I read, I would never go near a doctor again!

I had to step back and think about the context. Who would be writing into these forums except those folks who had problems? If you didn’t have a problem, you’re not doing an Internet search about it. I am not minimizing the problems these folks had, but I need to put it in context. Out of the 10 or so people who wrote in with problems, hundres of thousands of people have had uneventful contrast MRIs and successful hip arthroscopies.

Lesson learned:

Think about the information source and the context.

So overall, my biggest lesson learned from all this is that is critical to put context around your Internet search. It all comes back to good old common sense.

What experiences have you had with information overload?

Photo is courtesy of Intersection Consulting’s Flickr Photostream, under Creative Commons Licensing.

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