According to the Internet, I Have 5 Minutes To Live


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In this internet age where Google is at everyone’s fingertips, ‘Googling’ the most minor medical symptom has become common practice for many individuals. When it comes to looking up health ailments, the internet often gives us the worst case scenario, leaving individuals paranoid.

In light of this phenomenon, we asked SERMO physicians to tell us about a time when a patient came to them fearing the worst, based on something they’d read on the internet. Doctors came together to tell us their best recollections:

“One patient told me that the internet had suggested all the symptoms were indicative of pregnancy. I had to reassure the patient. ‘No sir, I don’t think you could be pregnant….’” – Ophthalmology

“A long-time female patient insists that I check her prostate every time I examine her. Every visit, I explain why this isn’t necessary. Her answer is always, ‘I read on the internet that this should be performed yearly.’” – Obstetrics & Gynecology

“Standard warning to pts: beware of Dr. Google, 3 clicks you have cancer, 4 clicks you are dead.” – Emergency Medicine

 “Healthy but fatigued teenager who was way too busy with too many activities convinced she had… no, not mono… sepsis and was going to die any minute.” –Pediatrics

“A patient (who is a terrible hypochondriac anyway) had hemorrhoids but was sure he had rectal prolapse. The first thing he said when I walked in the exam room: ‘You’re going to have to reinsert my rectum!’” – Internal Medicine

“A patient of mine two weeks ago (pre-eclipse) working in her 21st floor office, was convinced from all the internet information, that if sunlight touched any part of her body during the eclipse, she would go blind. She wanted to know if she should hide in a closet during the transit, or at least pull the curtains. She was truly terrified. I explained the nature of the eclipse, and sunlight in general and why she was safe unless she actually looked at the sun.” – Ophthalmology 

Are you a physician? Do you want to connect with other doctors about the best way to support patients and each other? Login to SERMO to talk with other real doctors about patient stories and the practice of medicine.


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