Knocking down barriers between healthcare providers and consumers is generally a good idea, but is there such a thing as too much patient education? Apparently so, at least in some circles.
In the Health News section of UPI.com, a recent story notes just such a situation exists when it comes to children with cancer. More specifically, it exists for parents and adult caregivers of kids with cancer. As noted in the article, “Parents of kids with cancer distrust Web“, researchers at the University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions found that parents of children who had been diagnosed with cancer distrusted and even feared the information they found or might find on the Internet.
The study’s co-author, professor Elizabeth Gage, notes an interesting twist: “One of the reasons we were interested in exploring this issue is that so much research and media coverage had examined how the Internet was breaking down barriers between patients and caregivers and their physicians. But that wasn’t the case in our study.” They found parents feared the all too often “worst case scenario” stories they so readily encountered on the Web.
Granted, the study is small, based on interviews with only 41 parents of pediatric cancer patients, but the lesson is very important. “One-size-fits-all” doesn’t work when it comes to patient education.
Breaking down barriers between healthcare providers and consumers is essential. Making healthcare more understandable is empowering. Helping increase the health literacy of consumers will help us reach global health goals for improved outcomes and lower costs. But, sometimes, too much information can backfire.
Personally, I think this story highlights the value still inherent between the consumer and their trusted healthcare provider(s). The so-called “Dr. Google” just doesn’t have the same ability to help people navigate certain health issues, especially those which are more emotionally sensitive. Providing better and more accessible patient education is worthwhile goal, but remembering the human factor as we do so should be our most important priority.
Posted – March 30, 2012