As the internet becomes more and more easily accessible it is perhaps inevitable that patients should try to self-diagnose.
In this week's health opinion column Scrubbing Up, medical law expert Dr Anthea Martin warns doctors against dismissing all web-wise patients as 'cyberchondriacs'.Picture the scene. A man walks into a GP's consultation room and the doctor's eye is immediately drawn to a 10-page print-out in his hand. The GP suspects the patient has spent hours researching all of his symptoms on the internet before arriving at the appointment, armed with his dossier of medical information.
It's possible he has diagnosed himself with anything ranging from a simple cold or flu to some exotic disease such as dengue fever. So, what would be the GP's initial reaction? Does she welcome the chance to discuss her patient's health, or does a look of panic cross her face while she gazes anxiously at the clock wondering how long the consultation will take?
For doctors who fall into the latter category, it is possible to feel some sympathy. According to a new study, many GPs feel intimidated by the increasing numbers of web-wise patients arriving in surgeries.
Results showed that doctors experienced "considerable anxiety" when faced with a patient bringing information from the web to a consultation, while others admitted to feeling threatened and challenged.