March 27, 2012
A doctor friend who is a pediatrician was lamenting the state of his vocation of late.“But being a pediatrician must make you feel so useful,” I said. “Helping all those sick children, putting all those mothers’ minds to rest.”“It used to, but not anymore,” he said. “We doctors are slowly being replaced by the Internet. Mothers bring kids in to the office and already have their own diagnosis.”“I understand completely,” I said. “Just last week I discovered one common ailment and five rare disorders I could have by trolling WebMD. Still, I’m sure that mothers are interested in what you have to say.”“Not very often,” he said. “I say viral, they say bacterial. They’re medical experts. When I try to ask them where they attended medical school, they’re already on to potential side effects of possible drugs they’d like me to prescribe.”“Tough room to play,” I said.“Some of them even argue with me. Twenty-five years experience, but they have all the answers.”I didn’t tell the doctor, but it’s called Motherhood by Google. Nobody needs ask a mother or grandmother about something or to rely on a thick home medical book, mothers today just Google everything. We all do.A young mother I know recently complained of being tired.“Baby keeping you up at night?” I asked.“The baby slept very well,” she said. “But I had Googled ‘baby and sleep problems’ and it pulled up 19 million sites. I was up all night reading.”Clearly, doctors are outnumbered by online experts. When you Google “baby and colic” you get 3 million sites. Your kid will be finished with colic and performing long division by the time you read through a million sites.Searching “baby and teething” will net you 15 million sites with different opinions, salves and remedies. A Google of “baby” and the odious product they produce in their diapers pulls up a whopping 13 million sites. The kid will be potty trained (17 million sites on that topic) by the time you’ve finished sorting out the conflicting opinions.“The Web does bring out the latent medical caregiver in us all,” I told my friend. “My personal favorites are the diagrams where you can click on the part of the body that hurts and it will list the possibilities of what may be wrong.”“That’s not competent medical care,” he snapped. “That’s not how you diagnose. And, sometimes there are complexities.”“But, they’ve already read about the complexities, too, haven’t they?” I ask.“Of course,” he said.“Doctoring is all I’ve ever done,” my friend said, rubbing his temples.“I’m sorry,” I said. “But look at it this way, if you ever decide to quit your practice, you could start a blog. Someone might actually listen to you then.”Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.