IDIOT syndrome is when people blindly trust all the medical information available online and stop their treatment abruptly without consulting their doctor.
Recently, I came across this term IDIOT (Internet Derived Information Obstruction Treatment) syndrome, which is medically called as cyberchondria, where a person blindly trusts the information provided on the internet and stops treatment. The internet offers a lot of information which is good and helps in increasing awareness, but at what cost? Believe me, even we doctors search stuff that we do not know on the internet, but we know where to look for answers.
There are many people, including my friends and patients who search the web and then consult. These days the internet is replacing the traditional concept of a family doctor. This is not helpful as your family doctor knows you at a personal and social level, and can help you in taking management decisions considering all aspects of your illness, desired treatment, and logistics or finances. The latter aspect is something we doctors usually do not take into consideration, it is easy for us to advise treatment for a disease, but whether the patient would be able to take that treatment is something that distinguishes a good doctor from an average one.
I realized this the hard way, when two patients of mine, did not receive treatment from me, one because of parking issues, and the second one felt that waiting time was too much. How often we forget things that are not important medically, are very important to the patients in deciding their treatment. Internet is that extramarital affair in the sacred doctor-patient relationship, which provides information that we doctors are sometimes unable to. This arises because patients lose faith in the doctors, and then they resort to seeking help from the internet. Now the trend is patients first read up on the web and then seek consultation, and they kind of cross verify the information.
I would like to describe an instance where the internet has created obstacles. This patient had cancer in the jaw, which spread to the neck. The cancer was operated, and the disease was removed. However, to minimize the chances of recurrence, it required radiation therapy. When I explained the same to the patient and his well-educated family, they were skeptical because of the risks of cancer caused by radiation. Despite explaining the probability and how benefits outweigh this minute risk, they still were in doubt and denied treatment. Later they returned with recurrence, and I could not do much for them. In retrospect, I ask myself whether I could have done anything differently?
I am not of the opinion to not use the internet, rather one should use it. Like all other practices, malpractice exists in health care as well. However, it is important that you ask your doctor about the website where they can read up and get more aware. These days I tell my patients about websites which offer good, resourceful, and authentic information. Also, remember one general principle, all patients are different, so the information provided can guide, but the management can and will vary from patient to patient. It is crucial to rebuild that faith in your doctors. I am not saying that doctors are God, and they can never be, but they are professionals equipped with the expertise to manage the patient’s sufferings.
Like every other service, this comes at a cost as well. When we go out for a movie in a multiplex the cost is more than when we watch the movie in an ordinary theater, still, we opt to watch the movie in the multiplex for the better quality of service and we do not complain that cold drinks are offered at the double the price. Similarly, there is a cost for the services offered, and it varies depending upon the place. However, in order to minimize, there are various charitable schemes available, that one should avail. Also, one should get insured for their health, it is sad that motor insurance is mandatory in our country, but health insurance is not. My basic intention behind this article is to bridge the gap between doctors and patients. Use your doctor as the first resort and not the last.
Last reviewed at:
31 Aug 2019 - 2 min read
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