I love the internet. Trust me, I do. I find nothing wrong with a client who goes and pokes all over the net in search of information about their pet, because I do the same thing for myself. The internet is nothing short of miraculous in helping people become empowered. But. But…. (fade to black)
The scene: A typical exam room, inhabited by a typical patient: a labrador with an ear infection.
Me: Has Freddy had ear infections before?
Client: Off and on for most of his life, yes.
A typical examination, with me pulling out the otoscope and lifting Freddy’s ear. I am assaulted with a familiar, and yet unfamiliar, odor.
Me: Well, his ear’s pretty red…and…oh my goodness…. (withdraws ear cone) Is this….pus?
Me: This is just bizarre. Let me get a slide. What the…this smells like vanilla.
Client: I thought I washed all that out.
Me: All what out? Is this yogurt in his ear?
Client: Well, yes. I read on the internet that yogurt is good for yeast.
Me: Where did you read that?
Client: Well, I googled “yeast infection dog”….. I think it was on Yahoo or something.
So here’s the double edged sword. The internet is where clients become empowered and find YouTube videos demonstrating subcutaneous fluid administration and help each other find appropriate foods for their diabetic cats. It’s also where clients learn that parvo vaccines cause parvo, vets go to Hawaii courtesy of pet food companies, and Yoplait auris utraque is an effective alternative to, say, prescription ear medication.
I don’t believe in fighting clients on the internet front. It’s arrogant, frankly, harkening back to that old patronizing paternal doctor image; and it’s not going to stop anyone from doing it anyway. Much like I redirect my kid from disassembling the Tivo remote (he totally messed up my Dexter season pass, too) by giving him a bigger set of Legos to work on, I believe we need to do a better job of facilitating clients’ desire to learn more by pointing them to sites that are reliable, helpful, and accurate. It’s better for everyone.
I use Veterinary Partner all the time because it covers most of the topics I need in general practice, but I’d love to expand my list of websites to provide to clients. The wonderful Dr. Nancy Kay over at Speaking for Spot (I can’t recommend her highly enough!) has a list of disease-specific sites that she recommends as an internal medicine specialist, which I printed out and leave at work to share with clients. I also have some sites scribbled down from various CE meetings about feline disease-specific sites. A well-organized disease specific forum populated by concerned pet owners sharing the same struggles, sharing the insights from a variety of experiences and providing moral support, can be a lifesaver, and I support that 100%.
I am adding to my list of helpful websites all the time, so today I’m asking all of you- because there are a lot of empowered pet lovers here- to share your favorite informational sites. The more the merrier! I would love to have more to share. Knowledge is power- unless of course it involves putting yogurt in unusual orifices (I never did figure out exactly how she got the yogurt in there to begin with.)