presenting your online health search results to your GP

The first thing to remember, is that it is not about the ‘internet vs. doctor’. This is a collaboration, and a way for you to better understand your health concerns, as well as your care and treatment. 

Here are the 5 steps to remember to consider, when you consult with your GP:

1. Be confident , and considerate

You do not need to feel self-conscious about letting your GP know that you have researched your symptoms online. Your health and concerns about your health means more to you than it does to anyone else, so embrace the information that is at your fingertips, as it may help your doctor to help you. Always remember, that they are the expert, and to respect their time limitations. Prepare before your appointment by putting together a plan to structure and present your research so that your doctor can understand everything you are saying within a set (and possibly short) timeframe.

2. Focus on your symptoms

Focus on your specific symptoms. You are the only one who knows exactly what you are feeling, so write it down as a short list, for example headache, pain, indigestion, etc. Be clear and as specific as you can be. If your GP feels the need to explore any of those symptoms further, they will ask you to elaborate, so be prepared for this as well. If you are going to take in printouts or notes to your GP, stick to those facts that relate to your specific symptoms, and demonstrate how they correlate. Don’t forget to also highlight the sources of the information to validate the credibility of these sources. 

3. Verify your sources

There is so much information out there, but there is also much misinformation, so make sure the websites you are looking at are credible. Look for accreditations like the Information Standard, a certification process established by the Department of Health, or the HONcode, which is the Health on the Net Foundation, a non-profit organisation tied to the World Health Organization.

4. Remain calm

Don’t panic, no matter what you believe you have discovered about your symptoms and/or potential diagnoses. It is not unusual to play a worst-case scenario in your head, but remember that this is not your focus. Remain calm. Focus on understanding what you are feeling, and your objective to gather the right information in order to be able to have a more informed discussion with your GP.

5. Don’t play ‘the internet versus the doctor’

Researching your health online is not about the internet having better or more credible information than your doctor or nurse. This is a collaboration, and you are a team collating information from different sources and making sense for you to understand your health better, and in ways you may never have before. You are in your doctor’s office to have a discussion. You are not there to challenge their knowledge, even if you are feeling defensive given you might be experiencing pain or discomfort. Embrace the mindset of coming together to find a solution. With your newfound knowledgeable about your symptoms or condition, you can begin to understand the conversation better, and feel more confident in the consultation.