Ask Dr. Pepin: What Medical Educational Sites Can Patients Trust?
Understanding an injury and treatment options can inform expectations and reassure uncertainty. Dr. Pepin talks about the medical resources he shares with his patients.
“I want my patients to understand what is happening through a course of treatment,” says sports medicine surgeon Dr. Scott Pepin. “The more information I can give patients beforehand, the better prepared they will be. I want my patients to know what to expect, and I also want them to be prepared for the complications that sometimes arise to slow down recovery.”
Dr. Pepin doesn’t believe in surprises, and he does believe that comprehensive information helps patients to mentally prepare for a procedure by defining reasonable expectations. “How I provide information about medical conditions and treatment depends on patient preference,” he explains. “Sometimes we’ll review information face to face during a consultation, and sometimes I’ll provide patients with sources of information so they can go online and do additional reading about their condition.”
One of Dr. Pepin’s go-to resources is the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) website. “AAOS has excellent reference material for patients that is written by orthopedic surgeons and supported by science-based data,” he explains. “Sometimes, I’ll do my own search, vet sources, and then pass my research results on to my patient for review.”
Vetting sources in advance protects patients from relying on bad information. “Dr. Google doesn’t have an MD,” says Dr. Pepin. “There is good vetted evidence-based information out there on the Internet, but patients don’t always know how to find it. I don’t want to put a patient in the position of reading their MRI report, googling their condition, and pulling up 10 frightening consequences based on misinformation and poor sources that make them feel scared when they don’t have to be.”
Even when Dr. Pepin guides his patients to trustworthy information about their condition, he likes to encourage them to do their research and then come back to him with questions. “The proper treatment for any injury is based on a variety of circumstances,” he explains. “I want to talk to my patient about what I would do, and why I recommend a specific therapy or take a certain approach. The complexities that dictate how you treat a specific injury in a specific patient can’t be summarized in a general article online. Not everyone’s medical history is the same, not all injuries are the same, and not every physician’s training is the same. A single treatment approach isn’t necessarily right or wrong, but it is important to know that the treatment approach being recommended yields a good outcome that’s supported by evidence. I want to make sure that my patients understand their options, and make a treatment decision that is medically appropriate and that reflects their personal values and priorities.”
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“Having my own personal experiences in sustaining injuries and the subsequent recovery process helps provide me insight into my own patients’ conditions and what they are going through. I also understand the importance of and strive to help return my patients back to the activities they want to do, whether that be to walk around the block or return to high-level sports performance.”