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The internet is a great place to look for good doctors. However, which doctor clicks for you depends on how you make your choice
Raymond Pinto was returning home to pick up his wife and proceed to the nearest hospital. His wife had telephoned him an hour ago, complaining of severe abdominal pain since afternoon. As his chauffeur weaved his way through Mumbai’s traffic, Raymond was on his cell phone, desperately trying to locate the best doctor in the locality. Being new in Mumbai, they didn’t know a local doctor they could rely upon.
Punching a few keys, he secured a list of “best” doctors on Google for stomach ache. In 0.14 seconds, he got 218,000 results! That’s when it got confusing. Is the first listed name really the best? Or are the names at the top, listed based on the payments made to the search engine? Now how does Raymond sift through those names and make sure that his wife reaches a genuine doctor?
The explosive growth of information technology has been a blessing in many ways. With the easy availability of personal computers, affordable mobile phones and ready internet access, the world is at one’s fingertips [well, literally]. It’s now possible to get a plumber, order a bouquet, buy a gizmo or learn the intricacies of an ugly skin disease instantly, without stepping out of the house .
A person suffering from an incurable illness can easily get information of the latest treatment. You can even get details of a hospital or a clinic, including directions to the place, equipped with nothing more than its name. “So, what’s the problem?” you may ask. The difficulty is that the information available on the worldwide web is not complete. Moreover, since there is no system to monitor whether the facts stated on websites are accurate, not everything that is listed is 100 per cent authentic. Even if it is, it becomes difficult to zero down on the right choice for you when you are faced with an explosion of options. Allow me to help you make an informed choice…
There are different kinds of websites on the internet. Private or ‘promotional’ websites put up by individuals and organisations primarily to serve two purposes: provide details of the services and serve as a medium to advertise their business. In addition, there are independent ‘service’ websites, which simply list various categories of products and services available globally. Search engines too display list of websites based on their own tracking and rating system. They provide prominent slots to paid advertisers, which are placed higher in the list for easy access by the user.
Unlike browsing health-related information, finding the specific doctor through the internet is not without its dangers. Therefore, one should have a clear idea of how the listing system works on the internet.
All search engines produce lists of items searched in a particular order, which is decided by their software protocol. The number of visits [or ‘hits’] a website receives in a specific period of time determines the popularity of that site. The search engine scans the contents of the site as well as the amount of time the user lingers on the page. As the number of hits increases, the search engine pushes the site upward in the list. Therefore, the first name in the list is the most searched site and is probably the most accurate one for the user.
Remember that not all doctors are listed on the web. Many senior and sought-after doctors don’t have websites. On the contrary, novices who have recently set up plush clinics may have sophisticated websites. Looking at the layout of the site does not always give a clue to the abilities of the physician. For that, you need to do a little more—make telephonic enquiries after you have short-listed your options from the internet. It would be foolish to make a quick search and rush to the first doctor available. The following points should help:
Armed with this knowledge you can be fairly certain whether the physician being located is qualified, reputed and responsive. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Therefore, the final step before surrendering oneself to an unknown doctor is to actually visit the clinic and look at its upkeep. Check whether the clinic is reasonably well-maintained and whether there is a crowd of patients waiting for their turn. You can even talk to the receptionist or other patients in the waiting room for a first-hand feel of the place. Most clinics have notice boards displayed in the waiting rooms. Give it a good look to see if the physician provides up-to-date information about current illnesses or it has an old collection of newspaper clippings. This may give a clue to the doctor’s interest and attitude towards the waiting patients.
In the final analysis, if one gets the feeling that the physician is not the one you had in mind, flee from the waiting room itself…. And start another online search!