Physician’s role is now that of curator


The digital world has put us decidedly in the information age. Physicians are no longer the gatekeepers of health information as patients are able to Google and Bing and Yahoo and more. But I agree with Mitchell Kapor. “Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant,” he said.

I think physicians need to come to terms with the role of “curator” as we work to source, access, screen, compile, interpret and manage information we want our patients to have.

Just as a museum curator chooses the best and most important works of art to share with participants, we need to help our patients access the most reliable sources of online information and data about their own health from that huge fire hydrant.

To use a farming reference, how can we help separate the wheat from the chaff?

Mayo Clinic, Medscape and WebMD are excellent compilations supported by big brands. Webicina is an innovative site deemed a “vast resource” by the World Health Organization. It has a team of six experts that curate over 11,000 medical resources on 134 different specialties and topics, and in 19 different languages.

Some national medical specialty organizations have begun to create and broadcast specialty-specific content in a social-media—friendly way.

The word “doctor” has a linguistic legacy of “teacher.” We can teach one-on-one in our exam rooms. We can give handouts. We can show wall charts. We can share vetted resources in our office. We can recommend books. We can use social digital tools to help share good information.

One of my primary reasons for writing this column regularly is to share ideas that may be helpful to my patients, newspaper readers, social media outlets and beyond. It’s my take on things.

Dr. Matt Hawkins, an interventional radiologist at University of Washington in Seattle, writes in the blog Wing of Zock, “If we want to be masters of the contemporary doctor-patient relationship, we must be reliable, timely suppliers of information and interpretation that patients want. Otherwise, they will go to WebMD and then just see us for prescriptions.”

What do you think? How can we use quality information to more effectively improve our health? And who do you trust to deliver it?


~Dr. Sue

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