By Dr G Vivek
We fulfilled our parents’ dream of becoming a doctor. We suffered through a decade-long heartburn studying and practising the science and art of medicine. We faced the firing range of questions from our learned examiners. We thought, “Yahoo! Done with exams… life should be a breeze now!”
Oopsies! Wake up call to real life.
Every day is a test. Everyday we face a new set of examiners — the patients and their parents/spouse/offspring/neighbours/BFF/colleagues.
We garnered our knowledge from tomes like Davidson, Harrison, Braunwald, Perloff, Otto… but our examiners have the supreme reference — the internet!
We are bombarded with questions like, ‘Are you sure it’s not a heart attack?’ ‘Won’t this tablet cause kidney failure?’ ‘My aunt’s neighbour has some chest pain, what do you think it is?’ ‘Will I get addicted to my anti-cholesterol medicines?’
While cardiology is a field where we often see emergencies, we also experience this scenario:
Patient/examiner: Doc, I have had this burning pain in my left chest since evening. Is it a heart attack?
Doc/examinee (after eliciting history of recent masala puri and vada-pav intake): Looks like acidity.
P: I was getting pains earlier, too. My friend’s mom recently had a heart attack… Can I get an ECG?
Doc: Okay! (After ECG turns out to be normal) You’re good to go. No worries. I’ll prescribe an antacid. Avoid spicy food for a few days.
After 10 minutes of further reassurance, the patient leaves the consultation room.
A few hours later, the doctor leaves the clinic to find the aforementioned stress-free patient guiltlessly enjoying masala-puri at the next-door snack corner!
It’s always wise to meet an actual intelligent and qualified human being to take care of your health issues. But, with the internet at our fingertips, everyone feels they have a doctor in their house: Dr Google.
No need for waiting for an appointment, standing in a queue or paying for a consultation. Dr Google is the answer to your prayers and health problems! In reality, a lot of information on the net is not validated or factual. Often, a search will highlight a terminal illness like cancer, leading to lots of anxiety and unnecessary tests.
A young man read about the demise of a well-loved celebrity and was so distressed that he did a battery of heart tests, without actually consulting a cardiologist. He got a CT coronary angiogram and landed up with an allergic reaction to the dye, plus a mild kidney dysfunction. He recovered rapidly after seeking appropriate medical help. An unfortunate and avoidable event.
Like all things in life, the internet has its many plus points. It has made it easier for patients to connect with doctors, search centres for cardiac testing and care, get medications at better pricing and get worldwide updates about advances in treatment modalities.
A cab-driver had sudden severe chest pain and sent a cry for help in his Telegram group. An unknown good Samaritan cancelled his next ride, located this man, did a quick net search for the nearest cardiac centre and drove up to our ER just as the cab driver had a cardiac arrest. He was revived and underwent an emergency life-saving cardiac procedure. This story ended on a happy note.
An important point to be highlighted is that all chest pains are not heart attacks. There are cardiac and non-cardiac causes for chest pain other than heart attacks. The intangible world wide web may store more information and data than your average doctor, but it can never compare to the experience, skill-set, decision making and empathy that a doctor has. Use the internet wisely; with great power comes great responsibility!
(The writer is senior consultant — interventional cardiologist, MBBS, DM (cardiology), MD (general medicine), DNB (general medicine) at Kauvery Hospital, Electronic City, Bengaluru)