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'Dr Google enters 80% of my consultations', warns RCGP chair

GPs must ‘be bold’ in the face of ‘Dr Google’ - patients looking up their symptoms before their GP consultation -  the chair of the RCGP has said.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said patients attend consultations having already searched online for a diagnosis in 80% of her consultations.

She said GPs need to address the reality of having ‘Dr Google in the room with us’ when speaking to patients.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Dr Google enters 80% of consultations that I have now.

‘I feel we need to raise that particularly with patients... and we have to work with it and we have to be bold and that’s a challenge for all of us I think.’

A YouGov poll of 2,000 British adults last year found that almost half (47%) of patients attempt self-diagnosis by googling their symptoms before seeing a GP

The RCGP chair was speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference on empowering patients to manage their own conditions through social prescribing and technology.

Professor Stokes-Lampard cautioned that the NHS ‘can waste a lot of money on the wrong technology’, but added that ‘when technology really works we have to embrace it because our patients expect it of us and it will make us more efficient and better clinicians’.

Primary care minister Steve Brine MP added: ‘If the NHS is going to be the safest highest quality healthcare system in the world, while we empower patients, we must do technology better, we just have to.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced seven digital milestones at NHS Expo conference last month that will see every patient able to book a GP appointment, check their patient record, and receive support for managing long conditions via an app by the end of next year.

Mr Brine said: ‘The title of your event this evening is "Who cares?" Well, having been asked that question, I would say, we do.

‘And I think we have every reason to do so because empowered patients are happier patients, they're healthier patients and... the same goes for GPs.’

Readers' comments (19)

  • AlanAlmond

    Technology is driving change through disruption at a grass roots level. This kind of change doesn’t happen because self important ‘Jonny come lately’ politicians impose ‘apps’ across entire swaths of a country’s healthcare system from above. The centralised top down model so beloved of people like Jeremy Hunt is the complete antithesis of the change that technology is bringing and as such is doomed to failure. JH sees technology as a way to control his NHS...from a philosophical perspective that is exactly what is NOT going to happen.

    Dr Google is simply an online encyclopaedia. Tell your patients noone would be so stupid to self diagnosis by looking up their symptoms in a book and they soon shut up. You can’t learn experience by reading a book. It’s a lack of experience that makes Dr Google difficult. Once you know what you are doing, you know what you are doing, and Dr Google is exposed. If you don’t know how to apply the knowledge you have access to ...it’s useless.

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  • 5,000 promised GPs to be replaced by app? Seriously? 😹

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  • https://www.babylonhealth.com/how-it-works

    (also note not so subtle disparagement of NHS GPs)

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  • ‘I feel we need to raise that particularly with patients and mystify that we don’t have Dr Google in the room with us and we have to work with it and we have to be bold and that’s a challenge for all of us I think.’

    What the heck does mean? I have no idea what practical solution the professor is offering here. Sounds more like jargon on top of jargon to nudge the patient off. A bit like "Brexit means Brexit"

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  • Vinci Ho

    The RCGP chair was speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference..............

    Mmmmmmmm.............

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  • doctors make correct diagnosis 50-80% of the time.
    google is 50-60%.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Rofique Ali | Salaried GP03 Oct 2017 5:44pm

    doctors make correct diagnosis 50-80% of the time.
    google is 50-60%.

    Most of a GPs job is not about the diagnosis

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  • Not my experience - very rarely mentioned in my consultations

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  • So what if they do? This isn't news.... and hasn't been for.... er how long has google been out there for? It doesnt really matter, we use our own versions of google.... Watson, Isabella, Up-to-date....... no one can follow all the journals all the time.... I have my desktop and a lap top on the desk at all times...the laptop is purely for evidence based medicine(So I can spin it around and hand it to the patients -great for Hot-topics, dermnet etc).......and far from being offended by it, patients now see and understand that I am always looking up the latest evidence on computer based systems and they are reassured that I am 'up-to-date'. We can talk through the treatment options , like discussing a menu, They get an information leaflet (Usually from patient.co.uk- I ask patients to go away, see if they think their symptoms match, ring any concerns and bring it back for discussion next time if they have any queries) see nice picture's of their condition..... and their notes contain references about what we've discussed.......they see how their cardiovascular risk profiles are calculated etc and smily faces for risk etc.... computers are already long embedded in the front line of general practice...... Nice to see the Prof is finally catching up with the rest of us...... its a reminder of the detachment between academia and the real world....

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