Special Assignment

Your doctor may be Googling you

CREATED Apr 28, 2014

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Ever since she got braces, Thursday Bram spends lots of time at her dentist's office.  She was shocked by what she learned during one appointment.

"My dentist had looked me up on Google," Bram said.

Bram, who runs her own marketing company, said while she was in the chair, the dentist confessed he checked her out online and asked for business advice. 

"That felt a little bit awkward for me," she said.

Could your health care provider be looking up information about you?  Dr. Haider Warraich admits he's searched online for patient info. He said he, and other doctors he's discussed the issue with, usually only do it when patient safety is a concern. 

The American College of Physicians advises not to Google patients. They said looking up information online can compromise doctor/patient relationships and trust.

Dr. Molly Cooke is president of the American College of Physicians. 

"It's hard for me to imagine how I would introduce into a conversation with a patient, you know, 'You told me you don't smoke but I saw those pictures on Facebook, with you that clearly show you smoking,'" Cooke said.

What about if patients don't give physicians the full story?  One case study references a woman who requested a preventive double mastectomy. Puzzled doctors didn't think her story added up.

They Googled her and found Facebook pages claiming 'she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and was soliciting donations. Doctors decided not to operate.

As for Thursday, she said she wishes her dentist had just asked her about her business, instead of searching online. 

"I never really expected that, even though now its very common place to Google things, I never really expected that my, my doctor or my dentist maybe using it in that way," she said.

Experts said a good rule of thumb for doctors:  Ask yourself, 'How is this going to benefit the patient?

If you don't have a good answer for that, log off.