The MUHC presents a new antidote to the 'Dr Google' phenomenon

Wednesday March 5, 2014

New website goes live

Self-diagnosis is nothing new, but as Internet access increases, more people than ever are turning to the web for medical advice – the so-called Dr. Google phenomenon. But how can we be sure the information we find is accurate and reliable when we “search” our symptoms? Several years ago, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) launched its very own antidote to Dr. Google – the MUHC Patient Education Office. Now, after incorporating feedback from patients, healthcare workers and the general public, the MUHC is launching the education office on a new platform, which is tablet-compatible, search engine-optimized and social media-connected. The site can be found at .

“Healthcare workers often struggle to explain complicated procedures to patients and their families, who are under a lot of stress,” says Dr. David Fleiszer, MUHC surgeon and Director of the MUHC Patient Education Office. “Being able to review material at home or online, at their convenience, at their own pace and free of charge, allows patients to develop a better understanding of their diagnosis and the treatments they will undergo, and this can facilitate more constructive conversations with their care team and their families and improve patient outcomes.”

“The new education collection, which consists of over 400 health modules, which explain diseases and conditions, as well as treatment and rehabilitation options, is image-rich, evidence-based, and developed with the assistance of a wide range of healthcare professionals from the MUHC, to ensure the content is as accurate and up-to-date as possible,” says Nancy Posel, Ph. D, MUHC Patient Education Office Associate Director. “This is the place for information for our patients and their families, and we are proud to provide them with a resource they can trust.” 

The modules are tailor-made for MUHC and RUIS McGill patients, but the information is also pertinent and accessible to people from around the world who simply want to learn. This is evidenced by the dramatic increase in international visitors to the portfolio in recent years. “MUHC healthcare workers refer their patients to the portfolio for information, but we began to notice traffic coming from well beyond Quebec,” says Dr. Fleiszer. “In the first three months of 2013, more than 40,000 patients, families and clinicians from all over the world viewed our content, including the US, the UK, Algeria, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan and China.”

The educational modules and associated materials are available in French and English, but are also being translated into other languages such as Mandarin, Italian and even Norwegian. “We’re incredibly proud that the MUHC Patient Education Office is allowing us to share the MUHC’s medical talents internationally, positioning us as a global leader and model for patient education,” says Dr. Fleiszer.

All the patient education materials embody the principles of health literacy, learning and the use of plain language and images to teach patients and their families.  “Using the information we gather from the MUHC healthcare teams, we start by telling the story with pictures. Then, we work with the same clinicians to develop the associated text,” says MUHC Patient Education consultant Julia Thomas, who is responsible for designing much of the content. “If we have done our job well, patients will be able to understand the messages without paying too much attention to the words.”

Substantial funding for this initiative was provided by the Cedars Cancer Institute. Additional support was given by the MUHC, the Montreal General Hospital Foundation, individual donors and businesses.

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