"Let me do some research, and I'll get back to you," my patient said.
My patient, a 19-year-old undergraduate, had already taken time off from school because of her anxiety. I was her psychiatrist, with over two decades of experience treating university students, and had just explained my diagnostic impressions based on a lengthy evaluation. I'd recommended that she try a medicine I expected would help. I'd also laid out the risks and benefits of other treatment options.
"Do you have additional questions I can answer?" I asked. I wanted to let her know that's why I was there, to cull the research, to help make sense of it.
"No, I like to go online and look for myself," she said.
More and more, I see students turning away from the expertise that a live person can offer and instead turning to the vast and somehow more objective-seeming "expertise" of the digital world.
In an age when journalism we don't like can be dismissed as "fake news," suggesting that the information we do like is most credible, regardless of its source, it's not hard to understand why young people do this. The medical profession itself, under managed care, has played a role as well, providing less time for doctor-patient interactions and undermining the chances that a personal relationship and trust can develop. Under the guise of efficiency, medical test results are now often released directly to patients, sometimes before or even without the benefit of any interpretation.