#LCSM Chat 4/21: Doctor Shopping in the Age of Social Media

The doctor-patient relationship is without a doubt a keystone of medical care.  This relationship is arguably most intense in the field of oncology.  For patients, few things are as life altering as a cancer diagnosis.  This is particularly true for lung cancer, given its poor survival statistics and the social stigma sometimes associated with the disease.  Thus, for many lung cancer patients, a surgeon or oncologist (sometimes both) become an incredibly important person for several months, if not years.  These doctors will gather the patients’ data, inform them of their diagnoses, administer their treatments, and on occasion, describe the expected duration of their lives.

Much has been made of the modern day ailments affecting the doctor-patient relationship.  Among other factors, constraints on physician time and increased demands for electronic documentation have eroded the face-to-face interactions shared between doctors and patients.  At the same time, this “personal touch” has perhaps become less important to patients armed with medical information and increasingly determined to participate in their own treatment decisions.  In this service-based model, patients utilize their doctors but may not absolutely depend upon them for decision-making.

So, how then, should the modern lung cancer patient go about choosing his or her doctor?  Should patients look for empathy and communication skills, or have technical skill and up-to-date knowledge become more important in this era of minimally invasive surgery and molecular based therapy?  How important is experience?  Does the hospital or hospital system matter?  Is it worth the effort to travel great distances for care?  Certainly all of these questions arise when a newly diagnosed lung cancer patient starts considering his or her options.  Patients now have multiple tools at their disposal to search for and review lung cancer doctors.  This includes websites and social media networks that offer physician grades and patient evaluations.  But how reliable are these sources of information?  Have doctors simply become service providers that can accurately be evaluated online?

With these provocative questions in mind, we will cover the following topics in our upcoming chat:

T1: What are the most important characteristics to look for in a lung cancer doctor?  How did you find your lung cancer doctor?

T2:   What circumstances (medical or personal) might prompt you to get a second opinion or change healthcare providers?

T3:   What online tools might help patients identify appropriate lung cancer healthcare providers?

T4:   How can we better evaluate doctors and disseminate that information to patients?

Arguably, the choice of physicians is among the most the important decisions a lung cancer patient will make.  Please join our moderator, Dr. Brendon Stiles, on Thursday, April 21, at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET, for this important topic.  Information on how to join the chat can be found on the “Participate” page of the #LCSM Chat website.

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