AMA Wire

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

For Physicians

Counseling patients about advice from "Dr. Google"

An article in the May issue of Virtual Mentor, the AMA's online ethics journal, discusses patients' need for physicians to help them discern the medical information they find online.

According to the article's author, an increasing reliance on the Internet as the "first source" for health information means that many patients need their physicians' advice to make sense of the dizzying array of online medical information—which varies significantly in degree of validity and accessibility to patients.

Calling this phenomenon a patient relationship with "Dr. Google," the author advocates for a built-in care structure that ensures physicians and patients can "digest new data and process new information together."

Surveys show that while patients turn to online information first, they have a growing trust in their physicians, presenting an opportunity to better educate patients about their health, medical care and the information they can trust. The article suggests that online support for patients also may become an important part of patient care.

This month's issue of Virtual Mentor explores how the profession's understanding of the patient-physician relationship has changed with 21st-century medical practices. Other articles in this issue examine how to handle requests for care from family members, discuss responsibility for patients after handoffs and take a legal look at when the patient-physician relationship begins.

Prescribing data access: Physicians have a choice

Restricting access to prescribing data should be every physician's individual choice. The AMA Physician Data Restriction Program (PDRP) offers physicians the opportunity to restrict their prescribing data from pharmaceutical sales representatives while still making it available for medical research purposes. Physicians may also register complaints against sales representatives or pharmaceutical companies who they believe are using their prescribing data inappropriately.

Since its launch in 2006, more than 29,000 physicians have used the PDRP to restrict their data. Physicians using the PDRP report high satisfaction rates—with 96 percent expressing satisfaction with the program and 56 percent telling a colleague about it.

The PDRP is available to all physicians—both AMA members and nonmembers—and enrollment is easy and convenient. Interested physicians can register online or by calling (800) 621-8335. When registering online, click on the PDRP "Register" icon and enter your name, date of birth and state in which you practice. And remember, restriction is permanent unless reversed by the physician.

It's important to note that the AMA does not collect, license, sell or have access to physician prescribing data, but through contracts with health care information organizations, it exerts regulations on how prescribing data may be used.