Clinic Stories

Dr. Google

The Google search engine has been a source of conflict between many veterinarians and their clients. The veterinarians complain that clients get incorrect information and that they come in convinced of false diagnoses, requesting improper testing and arguing against the veterinarian's point of view. There are many reasons that I disagree with the prevailing attitude:

  1. Google is a reality that is not going away. We need to deal with it rather than waste energy fighting it.
  2. I personally use search engines and generally find them helpful.
  3. Many clients come in with accurate information that reduces discussion and explanation.
  4. Dr. Google has sharply reduced after-hours calls because people go online to get their questions answered instead of calling us at 2 AM.

I suspect that for most veterinarians who are Google-haters look at it as a challenge to their education and expertise and feel challenged, threatened and diminished by information that is cheap and readily available.

That being said I have likewise found that Google information must be taken with a dose of caution. Why?

  1. The information can be inaccurate and/or incomplete.
  2. The information often is biased or merely opinion.
  3. People, myself included, have conformation bias, in that they seek what agrees with what they think and ignore what contradicts their thoughts.
  4. Even if the information is accurate, the weighting or order of presentation can be misleading. That is, something uncommon but sensational can be listed more prominently than the more common but mundane.

There is nothing inherently wrong or dangerous with getting information online. It seems to be best when you are seeking a fact based, specific answer. So as far as I'm concerned go ahead and use Google, but use it as a supplement, not a substitute for asking us. You are going to anyway.

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