(WFLX) - You probably don't think twice about Googling information about your doctor, dentist or medical care providers, but what if you found out they were also looking up information about you online?
We found a controversy brewing in the medical community over: "to Google or not to Google patients?"
Is it a violation of your privacy or a good way for your doctor to find out more about you to help with your care?
Ever since she got braces, Thursday Bram spends lots of time at her dentist's office, but she certainly wasn't "braced" for what she learned during one appointment. "My dentist had looked me up on Google!"
Thursday, who runs her own marketing company, says while she was in the chair, the dentist confessed he checked her out online and asked for business advice. "That felt a little bit awkward for me."
Could your health care provider be looking up information about you? One physician says, "yes". "This really opens up a new paradigm into how physicians and patients interact and how physicians really get to know their patients."
Dr. Haider Warraich admits he's searched online for patient information. He says he, and other doctors he's discussed the issue with, usually only do it when patient safety is a concern. "Whenever you're in front of a computer, Google is always such an easy tool. Which is why my fear is that, just because of ease of use, this practice may in fact increase."
But the American College of Physicians says do not Google patients.
Dr. Molly Cooke, President of American College of Physicians, says looking up information online can compromise doctor - patient relationships and trust. "It's hard for me to imagine how I would introduce into a conversation with a patient, you know, 'You told me you don't smoke, but I saw those pictures on Facebook with you that clearly show you smoking.'"
But what about if patients don't give physicians the full story? This case study references a woman who requested a preventive double mastectomy. Puzzled, doctors didn't think her story added up.
They Googled her and found Facebook pages claiming "she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer" and was soliciting donations. Doctors decided not to operate.
Cooke acknowledges there can be extraordinary situations where it's acceptable to look patients up. "I suppose there are instances where it might be necessary to confront a patient about a misrepresentation, but those would be rare situations."
As for Thursday, she says, she wishes her dentist had just asked her about her business instead of searching online. "I never really expected that, even though now it's very common place to Google things, I never really expected that my doctor or my dentist maybe using it in that way."
Warraich says before a medical professional Googles a patient, they need to ask themselves: How is this going to benefit the patient. If they don't have a good answer for that, log off.