CALawMama's Blog


Experiences at the interface of life, law, and motherhood in Cali

Doctors “Googling” Patients

One of my facebook friends, who is in the process of becoming a doctor (TBH I don’t really understand what happens after the medical school part ends, I mean I sort of do, but then I forget–anyway!), posted this article about doctors googling their patients. My response was, I would never have guessed!

Of course it makes sense. Additional, readily available, information can be helpful in proscribing care, as the article points out, and I would imagine. It reminds me of a sort of digital version of the highly skeptical practices in the show House, whereby the doctor goes to the patient’s home (or scene of the injury?) and investigates the potential cause of the problem. I think it could also serve as a sort of litmus test for honesty. 

I have googled my doctors, but not necessarily for personal information, moreso to garner what other patients have to say about them. With a plethora of specialties, and having had to change medical practices, choosing a doctor can literally be akin to throwing a dart onto a board, and hoping for the best. Also, and probably not surprisingly, as medical professionals, I would venture to guess that most doctors have their personal lives on an internet lock down– as they well should. It seems much more likely, statistically speaking, to have a patient use private information to wreak havoc against a doctor when things do not go their way (or there is a simple misunderstanding) than the other way around. My gut feeling is that most attorneys, particularly those in larger firms whom are more susceptible to firm politics, do so as well. I revel the luxury of not having to worry about my words being used against me in an inter-office hearsay battle, or being accused of making someone else look a certain way. I also try to avoid putting myself into positions where anything I say is patently offensive of unfounded– but that, of course, has only come after a digital trail of simple mistakes, that were a factor of my naivete or simply not knowing better. It only takes one (albeit unfounded IMO)threat of a defamation lawsuit from a major corporation to learn that you should use the words “alleged” “purported” “as claimed” and “accused of” liberally. 

The only fear I would personally have in a doctor:patient Google relationship, would be any affiliation that I may have with malpractice blawg posts, as a part of my professional work. I would hate to miss out on a wonderful doctor solely because I have been assigned to write about things such as operations gone awry, or birth injuries. It is out of motivation to avoid these potential miscommunications that I am always upfront about these sorts of assignments, and sometimes I bring them up in the course of conversation, since the cases that actually make it to court, and are thus published, and capable of being written about, are usually so egregious, that they aren’t imputed with the same disdain that at least some people have given my past work on topics such as Liebeck v. McDonald’s although I still do not see how anyone could side with McDonald’s on that one. 

Additionally, in regards to potential personal privacy claims, the results indexed in a Google search are by their very nature public. If you feel uncomforable having your doctor privvy to them, you should take steps to have the results unlisted, such as by making your various social media profiles private, or removing material you would prefer kept private. I assume I needn’t mention the potential for actual catastrophe in regards to searches in the course of detrimental searches, such as in regards to divorce litigation, and the like.

Lastly, I’d venture to guess that most practicing medical professionals are not graced with an inordinate amount of time to pour over their upcoming appointment calendars, googling as they go. I think the article is exaggerating the prevalence of the practice, though I could be wrong. I would guess a search after an appointment would be much more common. 

Anyway, thought that was somewhat of a trip. 


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