"Even though we're in the early stages of this research, we've learned a lot about the questions patients ask before making the decision to visit an emergency department (ED), as well as questions they have about their care after their visit," said lead author Jeremy Asch, an innovation strategist in the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health. "Knowing what patients look for before visiting an ED can help us anticipate their needs and direct them to the best sources of care. And knowing what they search for afterward tells us how we can communicate better and help patients on their paths."
Between 2016 and 2017, the researchers approached adult patients in a large, urban emergency department to determine whether they would be interested in sharing their Google search histories and electronic health records for the study. Of more than 300 patients who reported having a Google account, almost half (49 percent) were willing to share access to their search histories and health records with researchers.
Google - Searches - Information - Patients - Week
Google searches for health-related information doubled among patients in the week before an ED visit, with more than half searching for clinical information related to the reason for their visit, such as the symptoms they were experiencing or potential illnesses they believed they might have. Another 15 percent searched for the location of the emergency department or other logistical information. Patients often searched health-related terms multiple times before heading to the hospital.
The results also revealed gaps in communication that clinicians may not realize they've created. One participant in the study first searched, "How big is a walnut?" followed by "What is a fibrous tumor?" The medical records revealed that the patient had been told she had a "walnut-sized fibrous tumor."
Physician - Caring - Patient - Communication - Place
"The physician caring for that patient might have believed effective communication took place," said Asch. "But if the...
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