When my former doctor diagnosed my diabetes, I wanted to find out as much about it as I could. So just one month later I got an Internet account.
That was in March 1994 before there were any diabetes websites or mailing lists or even this blog. But there was one diabetes newsgroup, and it gave me more facts and opinions about diabetes than anything I could get out of my health care team.
When I started asking my former doctor about my questions on diabetes, he cut me off right away. “I can give you only 15 minutes for each appointment,” he told me straight out.
The only thing that my nutritionist seemed to care about was the total amount of fat that I ate. It didn’t matter if it was saturated or monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Trans fats weren’t even on our radar in those days.
My diabetes educator was a nice person. But she didn’t know the first thing about the glycemic index.
It turns out that my experience was typical. In the intervening dozen years millions of people diagnosed with diabetes have turned to the Internet – rather than to their doctors and nurses – for what they needed to know about their condition.
I have assumed that for a long time. And now a new survey does seem to prove that people prefer to learn about diabetes from the Internet rather than in their doctor’s offices.
The survey. asked 13 questions of almost 700 people. The most interesting question was, “What is your primary source for information about diabetes?” The largest share of the respondents, 28.62 percent, said that health websites was their primary source of information about diabetes. Doctors ranked second at about 21 percent. Family and friends were third.
While this sounds like it could be right, I do have concerns about the survey itself. The press release says that more than 30 percent said their primary source of information about diabetes is health websites.
Even more importantly, I wonder how scientifically selected the participants in the survey were. Nowhere do the links tell.
The press release says that “the publication Diabetes & Diabetics” commissioned “morefocus” to do the study. I assumed that “Diabetes & Diabetics” was a magazine that somehow I had missed. It turns out to be a website.
A couple of other bloggers, including Allie Beatty have accepted the survey findings at face value. The findings may well be correct in spite of the reservations I voiced above.
But one cynical endocrinologist, John J. Shelmet, while accepting the survey findings in his blog article, wonders if our preference for finding diabetes facts on the Internet is because it is free “and a physician’s opinion is not.”
I hope that his comment means that he sees his patients for more than 15 minutes at a crack. Most of us don’t get enough time with our health care team to learn anything. Like all the rest of modern life it’s a trade-off along the two dimensions of time and money.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.