So I took some time off last week for a health screening examination--something I try to do every year since I turned 35.
Two days ago, I returned to the healthcare services provider, where I had done the examination, for a review of the results and to get any advice on problem areas I might have with regard to my well-being.
I was told I had borderline cholesterol levels, so I asked the doctor what foods I should avoid and what I should consume more of to bring the numbers down to the normal range. Her reply? "Go Google it."
She added that the Internet had "loads" of information on what I should do to lower my cholesterol and that I should go read them to find out more. Aptly so, she didn't name a single food group to help me out.
My health screening report also included recommendation for me to get Hepatitis A vaccination. It was the first time I had received medical advice to do so and wondered why it was necessary and if I was part of a risk group.
The doctor's reply? "Go read up. It's all here," she said, pointing to the written report from my health screening tests. Obviously, it didn't take me long to notice a pattern.
By then, I had begun to wonder if I was dealing with a medically-certified doctor and how she had convinced an established healthcare services provider to give her a job. I was also baffled how a medical professional would instruct me to trust the words of anonymous Internet sources over hers.
It didn't take long before I decided I should scoot out of the room before I felt compelled to ask if I should Google her credentials too.
It also left me wondering about the state of healthcare services and whether the impact of IT in this industry was really all positive.
When I met with James Woo, CIO of healthcare services provider, The Farrer Park Company (formerly named Singapore HealthPartners), last November to discuss the potential of telemedicine, he talked about how elderly folks would benefit from remote patient monitoring technologies. He said it would eliminate the need for patients who were less mobile to make a trip to the doctor's unless it was necessary.
Despite numerous reports about how the likes of telemedicine, teleconsultation, videoconferencing and real-time remote patient monitoring will greatly boost healthcare services, one key concern that frequently pops up is the lack of the doctor's personal touch.
If my experience this week is anything to go by, I shudder to think how much worse healthcare services can get when doctors like my "Google-it" advisor are offered even more opportunities to simply point patients to the Internet and technologies to get the medical answers they seek.
Don't get me wrong. I think it's great that technological advancements have allowed many pockets of people to access medical help that they wouldn't otherwise have. But this shouldn't come at the expense of offering better customer services. And it certainly shouldn't mean that healthcare services providers can choose the easier way out when delivering patient care.
Otherwise, why should anyone pay hundreds of dollars for healthcare services only to be told to get their remedies from the Internet?
Now, excuse me while I go Google the identity of my doctor friend.