TMI. Season 1 Episode 1: 2020.
T M I. The theme of the internet 2020 and beyond! Too. Much. Information.
I mean, how many people can there be that write health and wellness blogs? Well, I don't know. But here I am, one more hair ball, clogging up the drain. Happy to be here!
We are in a constant state of information overload. Chronic bombardment by TMI. We have never had more access to more information ever in history. Anyone old enough to remember doing school projects and papers using the Brittanica Encyclopedia sets? I do. And, I can still smell them in my brain. Yum.
Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Google. Yahoo. TV. Radio. Local and national news. YouTube. Alexa. News apps. Blogs. News websites. Headline after headline of contradictory blabber. "Experts" in everything, everywhere.
So. Many. Opinions. I'm suffocating in a cloud of opinions.
So - HOW is it that when we go to our doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, therapists, dietitians, chiropractors, physical therapists, dentists, pharmacists - they can often give us their bottom line opinion on ___________ (insert any topic). How do THEY know another perspective and have an opinion or recommendation on this topic that I just found or googled a million things about!? What sources do THEY use to form their opinions?
I can tell you with certainty - it ain't a random rant article or meme from Facebook. Experience - working through the same problems with many different patients is a huge advantage. Experience is the best teacher.
Also, healthcare professionals use so many trusted references, many of which - cost... money... that's a big one.
But, some of these reference sites or apps are free and available to the public! Cha-Ching!
As promised in the mission for this blog, here's a bottom line:
Humans are emotional beings.
Warning: opinion ahead, you've approached a fork in the road, turn right to continue reading, turn left to return to your regularly scheduled news-feeding...
Healthcare providers aren't allowed to be emotional human beings when they are making decisions about your healthcare or recommending a course of action. Healthcare providers can be empathetic beings, not emotional beings. This is called objectivity. Please know, that this is a talent and an art. Some people are more talented and artistic at being objective and effective than others. Some people will never be good at it. And some people refine this talent with time and experience. As the patient, it is in your best interest to strap on your Simon Cowell hat, and be on the lookout for which providers are talented at being objective. You're going to Hollywood.
[ uhb-jek-tiv ]
adjective not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion." (1)
Do y'all know how HARD that is?
How hard it is to tell people what to do, give people bad news, tell people things they don't want to hear, tell people things that will make them angry or fall apart, tell people not to do something that you do yourself, or make life-and-death decisions for people that you still consider whole human beings? And then still try to be a whole human being yourself at the end of the day. It's hard AF. But in the interest of doing what is best for a patient - good providers will always be both objective and empathetic when giving you advice about your healthcare.
The way that you can tell how hard it is to be objective about information and decision making related to healthcare and disease processes and recommendations - is playing out in real time in all of our lives and news feeds every single minute of every day in 2020. If you've never gotten annoyed, angry, sad, scared, confused, overwhelmed, depressed, frustrated, excited, interested, defensive, offended, argumentative, or even withdrawn regarding COVID19 in 2020 - you a supa freak, supa freak, you supa freeeakkaaayyyy. As evidenced by (AEB) how many arguments, memes, videos, rants, unfollows, and negativity riddle social media in 2020, that is how you can tell how hard it is to not get emotional about something that is hard to deal with in healthcare. So. How can we stay objective? We ARM ourselves with as much unbiased information about a topic as we can so that every single headline and shared post doesn't trigger us. The ER doctor and Cardiologist don't freak out, ball up in a corner, hyperventilate and cry every time a patient comes in having a heart attack. That's emotional. Objective is that they know so much about how to fix a heart attack, quickly, that they can understand that you are scared, acknowledge you are scared, and then inform and ACT. You can't fix the heart attack from the fetal position in the corner. Likewise, on social media, most of the time, we can sit back, see and read, keep breathing, and control our thumbs.
The following list is not all-inclusive, you have to pay for your own alcohol. There are many other sources that are valid, that won't be here. These are MY go-to resources for current events, and if you or your child have ever been my patient, these are the sources I go to to research a topic and/or make a decision.
MedScape: A website, a smart phone app, an e-mail subscription. They describe themselves as "Medscape is the leading online global destination for physicians and healthcare professionals worldwide, offering the latest medical news and expert perspectives; essential point-of-care drug and disease information; and relevant professional education and CME."
Personally, I subscribe to MedScape e-mails, I use the app in clinical practice, and I find their content to be extremely relevant all the time. There are certainly opinion based articles, but there is a lot more unbiased information than there are opinion pieces within this site. This app is FREE! You have to provide some information to sign up, but it's a great resource.
2. Up To Date: A website. How they describe themselves: "More than 1.9 million clinicians in 190+ countries rely on UpToDate®to make the best care decisions and stay abreast of contemporary standards in the workflow and on-the-go. UpToDate is the only resource associated with improved patient outcomes and hospital performance, and studies show that clinicians who use UpToDate change their decisions 30 percent of the time. More than 7,100 world-renowned physician authors, editors, and reviewers use a rigorous editorial process to synthesize the most recent medical information into trusted, evidence-based recommendations." Translation: Up To Date is where a clinician (an MD, an NP, a PA, etc...) can type in a topic in the same way you would search on Google (example: UTI) and then the results that come up are articles that are a bottom-line summary of ALL the most detailed and "up to date" - get it? - research available on that particular topic.
Including treatment recommendations. The paid version that healthcare providers use is $53/month or you can buy a 7 day subscription for $20 (example: if you get a new diagnosis that you want to research). Many times, large organizations (like Lafayette General Health) will have a subscription that all providers can log into and not pay for individually. The good news, is that there is a free option for patients and caregivers!
3. NIH: The National Institutes of Health website, and yes, the NIH is a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The government. Here's how they describe themselves: "NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability." The reason why I gravitate toward this source, is because there are actual research study reports available, in partial or full text, for free, to the public. If you ever hear a story in the news or elsewhere that says "research shows that _____"- the NIH site is a place you can go to find the exact research study on that topic. The reports are unedited, no lipstick, no mascara. Warning: research study reports are hard to understand and hard to read. There is a lot of scientific terminology and statistical information included in them, so they can be intimidating and off-putting even to medical professionals.
Life hack: Every research article has the same structure. They are written in the same order, with the same sections, no matter what. The first paragraph in an official research article is called the "Abstract" - this is a summary of what the researchers intend to figure out, what questions they are trying to answer, and maybe a little background on the problem at hand. Read this section first, then skip through alllll the rest of the stuff in the middle, until you get to the "Summary". The last paragraph in the article will summarize the goal of the study, the question the researchers had, and what conclusions they came to! The Summary is the bottom line. Just read the buns, meat/lettuce/condiments not necessary.
4. HealthLine: A website that, in my opinion, has a lot of objective information, that is reviewed by licensed healthcare professionals, and often peer-reviewed (a doctor reviewed the article for accuracy and then another doctor reviewed that doctor's review for accuracy). So extra. They are transparent about ads and sponsors and their articles are my style - straightforward and easy to understand.
5. Websites for professional organizations. Here are only a few examples: American Urological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Dermatology. These websites usually end in ".org" and are the professional organizations that nurse practitioners, physicians, chiropractors, dentists, psychologists, etc. belong to. We pay dues to these organizations and for some professions, the big exams we take to become licensed after graduation are often written by these organizations. If there are treatment guidelines for any specific condition, these organizations often publish the latest research and give their official recommendations or opinions.
6. Miscellaneous: MedlinePlus, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and everybody's favorite flavor of the month: the CDC.
So, to summarize and make this relevant for every day life: every time I see an article shared on social media, or an article written and published by a local or national news organization, I first look for the source.
Who wrote it? What is this website that it came from? How old is the article, what is the original publication date and has it been edited since then? Was it reviewed by one or more medical professionals in a specialty relevant to the content? Is there a link to the original resource? Is it an opinion piece - are there any adjectives (strong, healthy, dangerous, safe, etc.) or emotional words in the headline of the article that "tell me how to feel" about the topic? After considering some or all of the above elements - I will decide whether or not to continue to read it, OR, if the points in the article seem legitimate, I will specifically search the topic in the article through the sources listed above. I am very wary of random .com or .net websites. While those sites may have legitimate information, I track it down, to see where it came from originally.
Now, take off your Simon Cowell hat and put on your FBI hat. The FBI hat looks cooler anyway. Love the white on black letters. Goes with everything. Before you reshare, react, or recommend - go down the rabbit hole. Let's be the best Facebook article sharers and readers we can be!