Sometimes You Just Want Answers

An excerpt from Medical Answers Now!: How Direct Primary Care Guarantees Fast Access to Your Doctor.


Google receives more than one billion health-related questions every day. That’s an estimated 7% of all Google searches performed. Only a minority of these searches are for the purpose of finding a doctor. Most are people simply seeking health information and insight on their personal health, medical conditions, symptoms, medical test explanations, medications, nutrition, fitness, dietary supplements, or insurance questions.

Interestingly, health-related Google searches increase significantly in individuals who end up in the emergency room within the following two to three weeks. People clearly have health questions that require answers and often have pressing questions that, if not answered, may result in significant medical problems. As a practicing physician, I regularly see patients whose health outcomes would have been much better if they had been able to have their questions answered in a timely manner from a reliable and accurate source of information.

Jacqui, for example, knew something was wrong. Over the previous couple of weeks, she was having episodes of dizziness. Not just a little lightheadedness but actual spinning around vertigo. This was completely new to her so her instinct was to do her own research like she does for everything else in life—she Googled it. If only she knew what to believe.

She found a huge number of causes for vertigo and some were really scary. If she had one of those conditions, she needed to go to the ER right away. Then she remembered her doctor. She called our office, spoke with her physician on the phone, and was seen the same day. As it turns out, she didn’t have a significant issue and was treated and reassured that her symptoms would likely resolve within another couple of weeks. Had she called sooner, she would not have had to worry and wonder what was wrong or what to do about it.

Contrary to popular belief, doctors really do appreciate it when their patients ask questions and take an active role in their own health. Asking questions and being engaged in the process of their own medical care is helpful to their doctor in delivering high-quality care, and it makes it much more likely that patients will comprehend and put into action the treatments and recommendations that their physician discusses with them. Even when patients’ sources of information from an online health related search are suspect or flat-out wrong, the inquiring mind absorbs much more of the accurate and necessary information that their physician (hopefully) shares and allows them to become true partners with their doctor in their ongoing health.

My son recently graduated from medical school, and I had the honor of “hooding” him (a proud dad moment when I draped the medical hood over his gown during the graduation ceremony). I felt like I should impart some kind of wisdom to help crystallize this new journey he was preparing to begin. I told him that, in his entire career as a practicing physician in service to his patients, he will basically answer only two very important questions: What’s wrong with me? and What should I do about it?

When people seek a doctor, they have a surprising breadth of questions, but the vast majority of them boil down to helping them understand the cause of their symptoms or health situation and then formulating a plan to address them. It seems simple, but it’s surprising how often people seek answers from Dr. Google or even go to a physician’s office and these fundamental questions go unanswered. These two questions need to be answered for everyone’s health and peace of mind.


Click here to read more from Dr. Burns book, Medical Answers Now!