Instead of calling doctors, many Google first

Sacramento BeeNovember 2, 2009 

The Internet's power to make something "go viral" has surpassed the phrase's original meaning.

Sneeze once, you might pass a virus to the person next to you. Post something online, the entire world might get infected.

Take the H1N1 vaccine: Last Thursday morning, the search term "H1N1 vaccine dangers" hit Google's top 10 searches.

A video of a cheerleader supposedly crippled after getting the flu vaccine received almost a million hits.

It's driving doctors crazy, as they insist the vaccine is safe and anti-vaccine preachers are plain wrong.

But the H1N1 story is evidence of a broader trend: The public's appetite for Internet health information has fundamentally altered the doctor-patient relationship.

Doctors are no longer perceived as the only authority on health information.

"People don't have that kind of patriarchal relationship with their physicians anymore," said Dr. Maxine Barish-Wreden, who heads Sutter's integrative medicine team. "They come in, and they're armed with some data already."

Almost all U.S. physicians said in a survey that at least some patients bring to appointments health information they found online, according to the Manhattan Research Group, a company that researches health care trends.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service