Friday, Sept. 7, 2012
Written by Lisa Hanchey
|Dr. Indira Gautam|
What do you do when you are feeling bad but don’t want to take the time to wait in a doctor’s office? Many people resort to the Internet, where medical sites dispense advice with just a few strokes of the computer keyboard. One of the most well-known sites is WebMD, offering everything from a “symptomchecker” to info about drugs and supplements to healthy living tips.
But what do real-life docs think about these virtual doc websites? IND Monthly asked some area experts about the pros and cons of using WebMD and other Internet research sites.
Dr. Indira Gautam, a family medicine specialist at Regional Medical Center of Acadiana who has practiced in the Lafayette area for more than 10 years, is a proponent of selective Internet medical websites, including WebMD. “My feeling is that the foundation of medicine is to empower individuals to be able to take care of themselves,” she says. “Sometimes, part of that empowerment does include prescribing medicines and other things that us doctors do. But at the end of the day, I think an informed patient is someone who is going to help me take care of them.”
While some doctors take issue with patients who research their medical problems on the Internet, Gautam actually encourages it. “I have a discussion with my patients on the first or second visit about places on the Internet that I feel will give them valid information, and WebMD is one of those places that I mention,” she says. “I encourage my patients to call me and discuss something that they read on the Internet if they don’t understand it.”
Cardiologist Dr. Kalyan Veerina of Cardiovascular Institute of the South finds that WebMD is a great resource for patients. “From a patient’s perspective, it’s a great resource in that you can go to the site and type in your questions about all kinds of topics, like what kind of screenings you need at a certain age,” he says. “It will give you enough information to go to the next step. If you are really concerned about your personal health, then the next step would probably be to see a physician.”
On the flip side, Gautam cautions that too much information might make patients unnecessarily anxious. “You can really start thinking that you might have a lot of very bad diseases,” she observes. “Because the differential of the diseases that the websites go through, they are going to tell you about some of the worst things. We doctors keep those things in our minds when you come in and tell us about something. But we don’t necessarily go and run to these diseases. You can get very anxious about things, just reading about them on the Internet.”
Veerina advises consumers not to self-diagnose. “They can be misinformed or get paranoid about things they read on the Internet,” he warns. “But they should go to the next step if they are truly concerned about something at a certain age or stage.”
Patients should be wary of websites promising a quick fix for problems, particularly if it comes with a price tag. “If something promises something quickly and easily, it’s probably not going to work,” Gautam advises. “And you’re going to spend money unnecessarily. If there’s a quick fix to something, usually you really want to go research it rather than go out and buy whatever it is that these websites are recommending.”
If you have a health concern, talk to your doctor. Period. “If you use WebMD as your only source, and you don’t have a reliable physician that you can talk to and address your concerns, I think that’s where the problem is,” Gautam says. “That’s where we build a lot of anxiety for no reason.”
Other doctor-recommended websites include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sites ending with .gov and .edu. But be aware that some sites might not be legitimate. “I think dot-gov sites are pretty good and valid sites, as well as .edu sites, because they are usually university-associated,” Gautam reports. “But anybody can post anything they want on the Internet, and that’s what’s scary.”
Overall, local experts find that an informed patient is the best patient. “I always enjoy patients who participate,” Veerina says. “They are more likely to be more proactive about anything you tell them about, like exercising or staying focused on diet. The more informed they are, the more likely they are to take better care of themselves.”
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
Jefferson Street restaurant and pub debuts during Festival with limited menu.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
See which events are taking place during INNOV8 Lafayette this Thursday.
It’s on, y’all. Fest fIND, our annual Festival International de Louisiana reader contest, is now accepting photo submissions.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
Fashion and music make great bedfellows
Producers, manufacturers, restaurants and chefs host roundtable and tasting
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
The easy one-piece way to style
Comfy feet for long days
Newsy bits for the whole fam
Don't forget: our annual Festival International contest begins Thursday! Win. Cool. Stuff.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
State bar foundation bestows honor on founder and managing partner of NeunerPate
This Wednesday, April 23, marks the first full day of INNOV8 Lafayette.
National awards recognize outstanding achievement in leadership development and leadership programs
A federal court magistrate has issued a seven-page schedule of hearings, conferences and deadlines leading up to January’s trial aimed at determining how much money BP will owe in Clean Water Act fines as a result of its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”