Protect your health from online misinformation: Dr Himal Kumar Modak

Dr Himal Kumar Modak, MBBS, MD pursued his post-graduate education in General Medicine at R G Kar Medical College. With a particular interest in Diabetes and Geriatrics, he has over six years of experience. He holds the position of Junior Resident at R G Kar Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata. 

When a patient explains to you about their health problems, what are the most common mistakes they make in their communication?

The prevalent error patients often commit when interacting with doctors is prematurely offering their self-assessed diagnosis instead of effectively conveying their symptoms and concerns.

What does health literacy mean to you, and why is it important in patient care?

Health literacy for the general population involves understanding the lifestyle choices conducive to a disease-free life in the long term, as well as recognizing potential harms in both short and long-term scenarios. It also entails recognizing that if something seems abnormal in oneself or a close associate, the optimal course of action is to seek advice from a healthcare professional, rather than resorting to self-medication, overlooking the issue, or consulting a pharmacy worker, which may include pharmacists.

If a patient is knowledgeable about the basics of their health condition, how helpful is it for the overall treatment procedure?

It is definitely helpful when a patient possesses a basic understanding of their health condition.

How much can medical misinformation impact treatment procedures?

Medical misinformation negatively affects the treatment process by undermining confidence in treating doctors and hospitals. It fosters a misconception that healthcare professionals are primarily focused on financial gain rather than patient care. Additionally, it may result in patients and their relatives downplaying the severity of the disease process or harbouring the belief that every ailment is easily curable.

What are the most common myths or misinformation you see your patients falling prey to?

Patients often succumb to prevalent myths and misinformation, such as the belief that doctors prescribe numerous unnecessary medications, while quacks claim to treat the same condition with just one or two medicines. This leads to questioning the value of consulting a doctor and paying a fee when seemingly more affordable alternatives appear to be available.

What is your most common advice to patients to stay away from health misinformation online?

Do not search the outcome and treatment online, especially on the sites that are not run by any doctor or nursing community. Do not search foreign websites for treatment and do not search for alternative treatments (elixirs, magical or natural remedies) online. These will do no good but harm your health.

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