Jefferson University Hospitals

Jefferson Psychiatrist: Take Two Websites And Call Me In The Morning

11/15/11

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, eight in 10 Internet users look online for health information.

While many physicians are aware that their patients go online for health information, few embrace it. Until now.

Dr. Rajnish Mago, psychiatrist and director of the Mood Disorders Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, says that he prescribes patients Internet websites after their appointments on actual prescription pads made specifically for Internet sites.

“We as a society have moved into the realm of the digital age,” he says. “Patients routinely use the Internet to look up information about their illness and/or treatment, just as they look up information about other topics. In this way, the Internet has allowed patients to play a more active part in their care, and for this reason, I give my patients specific Internet addresses so I know that they are not Googling their conditions and getting, and following, misinformation.”

For example, Dr. Mago says he often prescribes the Internet site “MedLinePlus,” which is run by the National Library of Medicine and is a free, authoritative and unbiased source of information for patients. “It not only provides information about various illnesses and medications, but provides links to a number of other authoritative websites, thus acting as a portal to web-based information for the patient.”

Dr. Mago says it is rare for physicians to guide patients about what to look up and where. He says physician reluctance is more about having to correct misinformation.

“There's a common theme that you hear from physicians that patients come in with a lot of misinformation, and that they need to spend time correcting that,” he said. “Rather than discouraging patients from researching conditions online, I encourage fellow physicians to pick a few credible websites that they trust, and ask their patients to use those sites.”

Dr. Mago says he considered prescribing websites after surveying his patients. “I never really thought of prescribing websites to patients until I noticed the number of patients coming to me with printed materials from the Internet and asking questions,” says Dr. Mago. “I then took an informal survey of all my patients and asked if they were using the Internet for information about their condition and/or treatment. The results showed that overwhelmingly – 84 percent – said yes, they were.”

Despite all the new technologies and health apps, one portion of healthcare remains virtually unchanged – direct doctor-patient interaction.

Dr. Mago's message to patients – when in doubt or need more information, ask your doctor. “As a patient, the best source of information is your physician. If you are doing more than just referencing or researching a condition to further your knowledge, and need answers to questions about your care, seek out your physician first.”

Media Only Contact:
Jennifer McGowan Smith
Jefferson University Hospitals
Phone: 215-955-6300