Can Google Replace A Medical Degree?

Patients are becoming more aware courtesy of the internet, as different forms of media and information continues to get pushed out, especially to us students and aspiring healthcare professionals. These days, it is uncommon for patients to bring their list of diagnosis and preferred medications to their medical visit. The internet can be a powerful tool, but also a dangerous one given the breadth and depth of false information. Can Google replace the importance of a medical degree? Despite its intelligence, it can’t replace it, nor can certain blogs  replace the importance of certain medical journals.

I wanted to be a health journalist more than I wanted to be a doctor because I love story-telling. But, one of the reasons I decided to pursue medical training was because I did not want to be just another writer who writes about patient care, with no actual medical knowledge or training.

There are only a handful of journalists in this niche media market who write for prestigious publications, but, ultimately, years of writing experience do not replace the credentials of a four year medical degree.

Writing stories about actual patients who you have treated at the bedside/chairside is a more authentic representation of healthcare. As someone with background in both journalism and medicine, it is easy for me to differentiate between a reliable source from another.

How do you know that the story you are reading isn’t fake news?

First, analyze the source of information. What are the credentials of the author? Even if the author went to brand name journalism school, it does not mean they have any experience in healthcare or any scientific background at all. In my quest to become a journalist, I learned that when there is a need, editors call upon generalists (journalists who report on anything) to write a story. Given their competency in writing and reporting, a general journalist has enough skill to write a story in healthcare. In order to make sure what you are reading is reliable and accurate,

Next, analyze the medium of information. Is the story published on the online version of major, reputable newspaper or on a consumer-driven blog whose content is focused on trendy products and lifestyle? Keep in mind that bloggers make a living off of sponsored posts and collaborations. Just because the fashion blogger you follow on Instagram says she is using a new-on-the-market face cream for acne scars, does not mean that it is good for your skin. Only your dermatologist can tell you that. Be smart and not gullible. There is an entire industry focused on selling medical products whether you need it or not. Companies profit from consumers who give in to their glossy ads.

So, the twice next time you read a blog post on a fashion-forward website convincing you that charcoal toothpaste is the best it would be wise to get advice from your general dentist, who will probably tell you fluoride-based toothpaste you are already using is ideal.

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Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.