How to search online information about any disease : important tips for patients.

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Online search for disease and health related information , is the primary method used by everyone to learn about health and disease. There are some excellent online sources for such type of information , where as most others are inaccurate , incomplete and often plain advertisements. These are important tips for online search for any medical conditions so that you can have accurate information from credible source.


  1. Define what you want to know after online search.

Infectious disease, also known as transmissible disease or communicable disease, is illness resulting from an infection.” Like malaria, HIV, Tb, Denue

 Diseases linked with the way people live their life. Diseases that impact on our lifestyle are heart disease, stroke, obesity , type II diabetes and more.

The term mental illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders—health conditions characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress or impaired functioning.”

  • Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, is a patterned use of a drug in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others, and is a form of substance-related disorder.
  • Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences.

1. Define what you want to know after online search.

Is it information about a disease condition / treatment method ?


You want to know what disease you have ?

If you are on internet to know what disease you have,  based on what complains you are having , than you are at wrong place. You should better  be in a doctors clinic.

If you have fever for last 3 days , it will be a expensive mistake to search internet whether you have typhoid or dengue ?

Just to learn  this supposedly  simple trick, it takes a doctor more than ten years ( 6 years MBBS , 3 years MD/MS and than 3 years post PG residency ). Even after that , all he/she can do, is  to take a good guess, which needs some diagnostic tests to confirm. You may still have dengue, even if the tests are showing positive for typhoid. 

Clinical practice is a imperfect science, you should let your doctor handle it.

If everything has to be left to the doctor, than what should you search online ?

Now since you have seen the doctor , and he says that he is suspecting ,you to have dengue, than you are fit to start your search online.

Your natural curiosity will be to know 

  1. What exactly is the disease ? (Diagnosis)
  2. Why did you get it and how you could have avoided it ? (Prevention)
  3. What is its current management ? (Treatment)
  4. What can you do from your side to get well soon? (Prevention)
  5. What is the usual outcome of patients having this disease? ( Prognosis)
  6. Are there any long term effects ? ( Prognosis)

2. infections or infectious diseases.

Wikipedia defines as “Infection is the invasion of an organism’s body tissues by disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host tissues to the infectious agents and the toxins they produce. Infectious disease, also known as transmissible disease or communicable disease, is illness resulting from an infection.”

The best websites for information regarding these disease is .

Patient related information

Public health related information 

  • Wikipedia gives you more or less the complete information regarding all aspects of diseases from causes to treatment and outcome.
  •  It provides the list of contents which you can search for what exactly you are looking for.
  • The information is very accurate and updated.
  • The information is unbiased and is updated by people without any financial interest.
  • If you are interested in how tuberculosis is diagnosed in a patient, it provides an accurate details of the current medical practice guidelines.
  • The best part of the Wikipedia is that , it also gives links to the details of the scientific terminologies given in the text.
  • Often people do not know the medical terminologies , so have problem in understanding the text. You can open the links and understand what that word means. 
  • Beside addressing important issues like , treatment , disease course and outcome, the last part of the page is dedicated to the current research going on the topic.
  • Further down the page,  it has references which show that the information is sourced from highly credible resources.

3. lifestyle disease.

Lifestyle diseases are defined by Wikipedia as “diseases linked with the way people live their life. Diseases that impact on our lifestyle are heart disease, stroke, obesity and type II diabetes.

  • Life style disorders like diabetes, blood pressure, obesity  are very common in US. 
  • The US health agency CDC offered one of the finest and well organised content on this topic. Its written for public use. Its accurate, updated and unbiased.

The best websites for information regarding lifestyle disease are in this order.

  • On topics like diabetes , hypertension and other life style disorder , it provides the best information available online in a way which is well organised, east to search and understand by a person having no previous knowledge of medicine or medical terminologies.. 
  • If you are a diabetic and searching for diabetes, it offers almost every thing you need to know.
  • It has detailed index/content tool bar, which gives you access to plenty of information, actually everything you need to know.
  • If you are looking for diabetes, the tool bar on left side shows all the subheading under diabetes and the commonly searched options are prominently displayed as buttons ( solid red arrow).

In the segment , ” type 2 diabetes” , it gives all the relevant details a patient might need. Like 

  • How you can manage your diabetes ?
  • How to check your blood sugar ?
  • What are the complications of diabetes?
  •  What should be done to avoid them ?

 So forth and so on.

  • It provide information about,  from,  routine for better management of diabetes  to prevention of  diabetes complications.
  •  In complications it elaborate the each and every complication possible, even the ways you can avoid those.
  • You get the point; it’s the best site for patient related information of the health related issues.


www.who.org another excellent site for information about health related disorders. You can search from the alphabetic list provided or the popular search topics.

If you searching for Nipah virus,

  • Left side tool bar ( vertical red arrow )  provide all the information about the disease .
  • Right sided tool bar (horizontal red arrow)provide the information about other related medical conditions.
  • www.who.org is the best site to look for if you are interested in the public heath related information like recent outbreak or the current research on the issue.
  • Beside the Wikipedia and the CDC , another excellent website for the above conditions is
  • www.nhsinform.scot

www.nhsinform.scot allows you to search by complains ( sign and symptoms ) , which is great help as most of the patients may not know the exact name of the disease.

  • If you are looking for say “back ache ” , website will provide you with the articles to explain what exactly is this problem .
  • The website also provide you with a guides to help yourself. 
  • Left sided tool bar covers related subjects, topics and even subtopics in every topic.
  • The SELF HELP GUIDE provide you  detailed instructions in a form of video or slide share. 

4. Mental, Psychological and Psychiatric disorders

  • US has a large segment of the population having issues regarding mental health, and so US government funded organisations like NIH provided one of the best information regarding these disorders.
  • The best website to search for mental health related issues, is www.nimh.nih.gov
  • Its home page shows the options of various mental health issues, that one may be searching for . 
  • It even has segments for related topics , therapy and treatments.
  •  It has segments for special populations like diseases related to children , elderly etc.
  • If you are looking for information regarding Depression , it has segments like sign and symptoms and treatment options.
  • Option “join a study” gives you the information how and where one can find a clinical trail on this disease to participate as patient.

5. Addictions and substance abuse

  • Wikipedia defines as “Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, is a patterned use of a drug in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others, and is a form of substance-related disorder. Widely differing definitions of drug abuse are used in public health, medical and criminal justice contexts. In some cases criminal or anti-social behavior occurs when the person is under the influence of a drug, and long term personality changes in individuals may occur as well. In addition to possible physical, social, and psychological harm, use of some drugs may also lead to criminal penalties, although these vary widely depending on the local jurisdiction.”
  • Wikkipedia defines as “Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences.[8] Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process – one which is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus – is the core pathologythat drives the development and maintenance of an addiction. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing(i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they are perceived as being inherently positive, desirable, and pleasurable).”
  • Drug Abuse and Addiction is a serious problem in US and National institute for drug abuse provides the BEST   information of this issue .

6. Injury/ Accident / Trauma / Burn

  • Wikipedia defines as “Injury, also known as physical trauma, is damage to the body caused by external force.This may be caused by accidents, falls, hits, weapons, and other causes..  Major trauma is injury that has the potential to cause prolonged disability or death. “
  • Wikipedia defines as “An accident, also known as an unintentional injury, is an undesirable, incidental, and unplanned event that could have been prevented had circumstances leading up to the accident been recognized, and acted upon, prior to its occurrence. Most scientists who study unintentional injury avoid using the term “accident” and focus on factors that increase risk of severe injury and that reduce injury incidence and severity.”
  • Wikipedia defines as “Trauma most often refers to:
  • Traumatic injury, sudden physical injury caused by an external force, which does not rise to the level of major trauma
  • Major trauma, in physical medicine, severe physical injury caused by an external source
  • Psychological trauma, a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event “
  • Wikipedia defines as “A burn is a type of injury to skin, or other tissues, caused by heatcoldelectricitychemicalsfriction, or radiation. Most burns are due to heat from hot liquids, solids, or fire…… Burns can also occur as a result of self harm or violence between people.”

A good website to provide information on these  issues is www.healthdirect.gov.au.

The website has the option of checking your conditions by selecting the options on display.

  • The “SYMPTOMS CHECKER ” offers the option of self assessment of your own conditions to see what should you do next.
  • For example, If you have head injury and you want to check what d do next, go to START SYMPTOM CHECKER and select the option of head injury from the list arranged alphabetically. 
  • It ask you a set of preformed question with multiple options as answer.
  • Most of the questions are either yes /no types or have multiple options to choose. 
  • Options are easy to understand or have icon for explaining it if required.
  • Once you have answered all the questions , it advise you , what to do next.
  • The advise include how you can take care or yourself, what are the issues you should look for, whetheryou immediately consult the doctor or you can afford to delay it etc.

7. Surgery / Surgical procedure / Medical procedure

  • Fee for surgery /surgical procedures / medical procedures are primary earning source for most of the hospitals /clinics. The websites directly related to the hospitals/clinic or those which engaged in doctor/  hospital search  have basic information about the procedures/surgeries done there . This is to attract the attention of those searching for surgical / medical procedures.
  • Obviously purpose of providing the information is to help you  to  make up your mind to buy the services/product being sold on or through the websites.
  • Its not that these websites provide false information , but often the information is not accurate and lack details. All medical and surgical procedures and treatment have side effects , complications and failures associated with them. The details of these down sides of the surgery/ procedures may not  of be fairly displayed as these may scare the potential patients away. So if you want to actually know about the details of the procedure , its complications and failures rates, the websites of hospitals and  doctor search websites, are not the good options.
  • In this regards , websites like Wikipedia, NIH and sites related to teaching hospitals and institutions are the best, as they do not have a conflict of interest in sharing information regarding  different aspect of disease and treatment.
  • For example , if you search for term, ” kidney transplant” ,  on the google home page.
  • This is top third of the google  search page. It shows mostly the information websites . Wikipedia and the similar websites are best if you are interested in  patients related information,like disease, treatment , course, research etc. 
  • These sites do not provide details about cost, doctor or hospitals.
  • If you are interested in knowing how, exactly the surgery or procedures are done , than the middle part of google page provide the videos , which have animation and real life footage of actual surgery.
  • At last google list the website which are sponsored or belong to hospitals or  actual service provides. The site which is sponsored are explicitly tagged as ” Ad” by google.
  • These are websites are best to decide where to have the procedures done. Hospital websites provide the details of the doctor and the procedures/surgeries you are looking for. Cost of the procedure are not directly displayed on the website, but they provide phone numbers for contact/ inquiry. You can call them to get the idea how much the procedure and surgery cost at their hospitals, including the usual duration of stay in the hospital for that procedure.

CLOSING : There are many good websites to search for health and disease related information. These sites are fewer in number as compared to commercial websites engaged in sales, marketing and advertisements of the health related product and services. Its the discretion of the user to chose which is the correct site to search. it is advisable to go for websites which do not have any economic interest in the health  or disease related information they are providing.


Please share your views on the issue in the comments segment given below. Kindly share it with others if you find this information useful.

Scientific studies report that most individuals (81%) say that they “learned something new” regarding their health, the last time they went online. The majority (80%) of people found the information through a search engine as reliable.

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online consultaion

How to have online consultation with doctor : Important tips for patients

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Online consultation with the doctors is getting more and more common, as everybody is busy and has a credit card. If  you have any medical problem , just log in any online doctor search and consultation websites and consult a doctor on phone. The important tips to make best out of every online consultation with doctor.

There are many different sites which are offering online medical consultation  in different formats

  • Chat/text bases
  • Voice
  • Video
  • Provided are both free and paid
Prefer video if available, or at least phone call. Avoid text based consultation if possible.
Its to risky to have the free medical advice from anyone.


1. Best sites for online consultation with doctor

  • Lybrate is the site which is focused on the online consultation format. Most favoured 
  • Consultation in chat, voice and video.
  • Doctors are mostly from the metros only but now they are slowly moving in tier 2 and tier 3 cities as well. 
  • Doctors  in all specialities like gynecology and psychiatry and nutritionist.
  • Biggest player among doctor search websites, have pan India presence.
  • Only text based consultation
  • Advantage of finding a relvent doctor in proximity
  • Provides medication and tests.


  • Provide online consultations with doctors associated at different facilities of Apollo hospitals in metro cities.
  • Website shows the credentials of the consulate doctors 
  • Advantage of follow up consolation physically



  • Primary business is online drugs and medication delivery.
  • Online consultation as add on service.

2. which medical conditions to be consulted in online doctor consultation

The popular specialities/ doctor consulted are

  1. nutritionist/dietitian and health
  2. mental health and psychologist
  3. skin and dermatology
  4. sexologist
  5. Ayurveda and homeopathy

3. Advantages of online consultation with doctor

  1. Convenience.   the biggest reason for the people opting for online consultation is the access  of medical advise by mobile phone which is ubiquitous and you do not  have to visit the doctor in person.
  2. cheap : lack of overheads like clinic and staff for attending to patients and larger number of patients help the doctor to give advice at lower cost.
  3. Availability of a doctor. Non availability of a specialist in proximity is not an issue as you can assess from a distance.

4. Conditions to be avoided for having online consultation with the doctors.

Medical emergency

medical emergency is defined as  an acute injury or illness that poses an immediate risk to a person’s life or long-term health.

Never waste your precious time in having online consultation. you should immediately contact to nearest health facility/clinic/doctor/ hospital which can provide first aid and advise regarding further management.

You need advice medical advise for children

Children , in general can not articulate their physical and mental complains and express it accurately to others . In these cases, doctor has to examine the patient in great details , so as to get an idea about the disease. A simple low grade fever can be a sign of a sinister medical condition like urinary tract infection. Online consultation is more likely to miss the diagnosis that physical office consultation.

 You need medical advice for an elderly

Just like children , elderly have very small margin of error in cases of clinical diagnosis and treatment. They are also more likely to have drug overdoses and infections. 

You need a medical advise for patients with hearing, visual impairment and mental retardation.

These patients have communication problems , both in reporting a problem and any drug complication. Doctor are trained to physically examine these patients to decide the clinical condition and treatment.

You have a disease/ medical condition, and develops a new related or unrelated complain.

If you are known to have blood pressure for many years , for which you may or may not be taking treatment, you have a complain of difficulty in reading fine print of newspaper for few days. It is quite likely that you may need to change glasses, but you may have more sinister retinal disease. Online consultation should be the last thing , you should have.

You have a disease/ medical condition, and need to start a medication or change the existing medication.

All medications,  even those taken for pain, blood pressure and diabetes have known side effects. These medications have higher risk of  complications if given in combinations. Doctor advise the single or combination of medications  after through medical examinations only.

You  have a disease/ medical condition, and need any surgery or procedure.

The decision to carry out a surgery or procedure should not be done on asking complains or seeing the records or reports. later has to be clinically correlated with patients physical findings. same hold good if you need a second opinion for your medical condition or its treatment. the second doctor must examine the patient and than correlate the records to give his opinion.

4. Risk of having online consultation doctor.

  1. Risk of wrong treatment or advice. When you take an online consultation with a doctor, it is presumed that you are knowingly taking the risk of having   wrong or inaccurate treatment in exchange of the connivance of having it without seeing the doctor physically.
  2. Delayed physical consultation ;You may actually delaying seeing the doctor in person as you have already received some medical advice. This may delay the identification or treatment of more serious medical conditions.

5. Other important issues related to online consultation with the doctors

All companies take measures to protect the personal and medical data of the patients as per prevalent norms and regulations.

All websites providing online consultation clearly state that  they do not own  responsibility of the adverse outcome of the consultation or the treatment that patient receive from/through  the website. They further clearly state that patient is aware of the risk involved with having online consultation in which treatment is been advised by the doctor without seeing the patient. Details can seen in the ” terms of use” or ” terms and conditions” link available in the website footer.

Must read ” terms of use” before availing the services.

Comment below if find any point missing. Please share it if you think it is useful.

Scientific studies report that most individuals (81%) say that they “learned something new” regarding their health, the last time they went online. The majority (80%) of people found the information through a search engine as reliable.

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online doctor search

Online doctor search : important tips for patients

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Every time you need a doctor , you go online to search for them. often you end up booking an appointment with someone you really repent. these are few must know facts which will help you find a doctor you actually need.

1. where to search a doctor online?

Doctor search sites.

Practo is a leading company in the online doctor search in India and provides  both physical and online access to doctors. 

It has pan India presence, and has more than 100,000 doctors associated with it.

Beside doctors search it also provide following services.

  1. online consultation with doctors 
  2. online ordering of medications
  3. online ordering of investigations
  4. practice related software for doctors
If you know the type of doctor ( specializations / expertise / degree)   you are looking for, Practo is the best place to explore.

lyberate is a relatively smaller player limited to metros only and growing into tier ii and iii cities.

It predominately concentrates on online and offline consultations with doctors.

Social media sites


Almost all doctor use LinkedIn for maintaining their professional connections with other colleagues.


If you know the doctors name , LinkedIn is probably the best site to see following details of a doctor 

  • professional qualifications,
  • institutional associations
  • work experience and affiliations
  • areas of expertise of the doctor
  • popularity in its fraternity

LinkedIn does not allow people to communicate with the unconnected people, so the appointment has to be booked from a appointment booking site only.


Twitter is also gaining popularity among doctors. twitter is best site to for casual interaction with unknown / unconnected people.

 You can use twitter to contact and share information with the doctor , if you know the name.

You can search using hashtag names of the medical condition of your interest. you will find lot of patients , doctors and hospitals/ clinics sharing their experiences. YOU CAN CONNECT WITH ANY OF THEM DIRECTLY.

2. Online consultation or physical consultation in clinic ?

Physical consultation in clinic  should to be the choice.


Online consultation : Avoid if possible

Some companies do offer the option of consulting the doctor on phone, chat or video, which defeat the very purpose of consultation.

It is not possible in most of the clinical conditions to diagnose and give a medical advise without actually examining a patient.

A complain of heart burn may be a sign of an actual heart attack. It is cheap but has high risk for the patient.

Its a huge risk on the part of patient because the advise given by a doctor without complete medical examination is likely to be incomplete or all together incorrect.

This will also delay the patient from physically seeing a doctor.

Also read

3. Things to be sure before starting the online search for doctor

  • Be sure of the doctor you want see, before you search.
  • Be sure of your medical condition.
  • Your actual purpose of consultation.
  • long term cost and expenses

4. use filters to find the doctor of your choice

Most sites provide filters for locating doctors. beside using the location, other filters can also provide important informations about doctor


  • Always prefer  a doctor available full time at one location over those which distribute their time at multiple locations.
  • A narrow window of 1-2 hours makes it hard for patient to reach due to distance and traffic.
  • Alternate days or few days a week availability is difficult to remember.
  • Clinic given small time slot by the doctors tend to be understaffed and Underequiped in comparison to clinics where doctors are available fulltime.


  • Most of the successful Doctors are either independently practicing or associated with big hospitals.
  • ln case of specialistor super specialist required for second opinion or any  specialized surgery or procedure, the location and fee  should not be a deciding factor.
  • For routine consultation or regular follow up, a doctor in close locality should see be preferred


  • Association of doctors with a hospital offers advantages of availability of addmision facility, in house radiology, emergency services which are usually not present in clinics.

Consulation fee

  • It often correlates with seniority,  experience and popularity of a doctor.
  • It also reflect on the long term cost of the treatment.

5. Data privacy and legal issues.

Personal data

  • Personal information” and “sensitive personal data or information” are protected as per government policies.
  • All companies use the non identifiable data for analysis  and research.
  •  You details may be share with sister companies engaged in selling drugs online, or ordering online tests etc.
  • Details are given in the “privacy policy” and “term and condition” of the website, usually available in the footer or header of the website.

Medical data.

  • Medical records are to be maintained by the doctor /hospital you are seeking consultation.
  •  Doctor search sites have a stated policy that they are party to any doctor patient contract that you have with your doctor.
  •  It’s your responsibility to collect the complete prescription /medical records at the end of consultation.
  • in case of a medico-legal dispute, search website will not be involved.

Medico-legal issues

  • NO DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP : all the doctor search sites have a clear policy that they do not own the medico-legal responsibility of the treatment quality or outcome , from a service taken through them. So it is your responsibility to verify the qualification, competence of person you are consulting and the quality of the services you are receiving. 
  • NOT FOR EMERGENCY USE all doctor search sites clearly state that you should not use their services during emergency, but consult the hospital/clinic  directly.


  • OPD expenses are covered under regular health cover or it can be added as a top-up 

Please share your comments bellow. please share the post , if you find it useful for others. 

Scientific studies report that most individuals (81%) say that they “learned something new” regarding their health, the last time they went online. The majority (80%) of people found the information through a search engine as reliable.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Do not miss the opportunity to receive best actionable insight on health issues which matter the most. Its absolutely free.

Join 1,366 other subscribers

doctor discovery website

Online doctor search websites: risks for associated doctors.

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india-1034843__340 (2)Online doctor search websites offers the doctor good online visibility and availability, just like other streams; are there any risks associated with these kind of associations for doctors? I think risks are real and multiple.

I was looking for a dermatologist in the city, and i thought of giving a popular Online doctor search website   a trail. I typed initial alphabets of the word “dermatology”, it showed the list of 30 dermatologists in the city. In spite of the living in the city for 15 years, i could not identify most of them.

Most of the information was expected from Online doctor search website like fee, location, schedule and profile of the listed doctors.  There was enough information available online to actually decide who should be consulted. It has details of ones qualifications, affiliation of present and past and of course, the patient’s reviews. Plus it also had the assurance that if i am not been satisfies by the experience, i can at least write a negative review.

But there were some facts which actually drew my attention. The first 10 dermatologists had almost similar qualification (10 yes post MD) , fee ( 400-600 INR) and reviewer’s ratings (90-100%) and exactly same profile as there was no options of customization of profile for the doctor .

Online doctor search websites: Stay close and be cheap 

adventure-2178442__340Clinical practice has always been different from the online sales of the movie tickets. It’s never actually about the number, though  a good practice is always reflected in patients count. Patient comes to you with a medical issue, often in distress. You establish an emotional rapport and trust with him, and treat him.

A satisfied patient shares that emotional connection and trust with other people which help a doctor to build the reputation in the community.  New patients coming to him are often refereed by older patients.

He/she is already primed about the doctor’s capabilities and knows what to expect. Slowly but steadily doctor build a follower ship of these satisfied patients which maintains a steady flow of new patients and is called a practice.

These Online doctor search websites reduces a doctor to a commodity, presented in a grid fashion, where all are more or less same and meant to be chosen on who is cheaper and conveniently available. Patient has to give star rating about how he felt about the experience. Patient can have hundred reasons why he/she gave a particular review or star rating and the next user has hundred different interpretations of the same review and rating.

There is no room for standing out of the lot, and if you want yourself to be featured ahead of others, than you pay for it. Practice is all about establishing your distinct identity among your colleagues with a separate patient base. You do not compete with your colleagues; you complement them in areas of weakness.

Online doctor search websites are designed so that patients develop loyalty with the site and a long term patient doctor relation could not be established.  If the doctor’s clinic is at a distance, select closer one. If time is not convenient, select some one more convenient to you. If you are not willing to move out, get an online consultation. You cannot contact with the doctor directly, by any means.


Also read:

Must know facts for online doctor search.

Medical Tourism : Trends, reasons, and a lesson.


Online doctor search websites :Patient inflow

india-1723464__340Very design is such that is redistribute the users among the service provider. So if there are 1000 dermatology patients in a city with   30 registered dermatologists, site will ensure a distribution of these patients among the available doctors, is a way which is cost effective to the users. And how will the service providers compete with each other to increase the patient inflow.

You are available for longer hours and cheaper rates. Those who doubt it can have a lesson from recent OLA and UBER drivers’ strike. People initially joined these companies because they can get customers easily, but soon the number of drivers associated with the network sky rocketed without an associated increase in the number of customers. It forces the company to frame the policies so as equability distribute customers among the associated drives, significantly bringing down the monthly earning, making it non-viable indian-318643__340option for some.

Patient’s personal and health related data 

As of now there were no clear cut guidelines. With drafting of Digital Information Security in Health Care Act.(DISHA), government has defined the policies clearly. It says that Protected Health Information (PHI) includes individually identifiable information which in-turn includes ‘sensitive personal data or information’ (SPI).

The new guidelines state that Protected Health Information (PHI) is owned by the patients and it the duty of the doctor to protect and secure the stored health information on patient’s behalf. Individually identifiable information not only includes name, contact number and Adhar but also the voice recordings of communication between doctor and patient that are non-clinical in nature. The  policies of every doctor search and appointment site clearly state that they are not a party in the doctor-patients relations , which leaves doctor squarely responsible to every contact or communication that happen  between doctor and  patients.

Online doctor search websites :Medico-legal responsibilities

holi-2198066__340There are no legal agreement between Online doctor search websites and doctor regarding the distribution/sharing of the duties/role and information disclosure policies. Online doctor search websites do not take the responsibilities regarding verification of patient identity and obviously take no measures to ensure that.

Some clearly state that they are not responsible if the user provided the incorrect information regarding personal identity. This put the doctor at serious long term medical-legal risks. Most of the websites have the stated policy of sharing patients contact details to third parties, (health information providers, drug supplying companies, investigations labs, taxi companies and so on) or have sister concerns engaged in these business.

Some of the companies encourage doctors to give online consultations on phone, mail, whatapp or similar applications. New regulations clearly state the doctor’s responsibility of ensuring privacy and data protection of patients consulted as these website are clear that they are not a party in doctor – patient contract you are entering in, with the patients.

Online doctor search websites : What happens in developed countries?

This concept of Online doctor search websites, is been there in US and there are few popular websites as well ( zocdoc). HIPPA (1996) clearly define a set of national standards for the protection of health information in US. All the site providing online doctor search and appointment are supposed to be HIPPA compliant. A lack of similar regulation in India could be attributed to proliferation such websites in India, which provide single stop solution for getting everything, from consultation with a doctor to ordering medication and gym membership, and from a single window. A similar lack of awareness among doctors could be a reason for doctors joining them.

One does not need to be a lawyer to negotiate through these offers. The important of being aware of once professional responsibilities cannot be emphasized more. There are two simple rules which can save anyone from landing in any of these risky associations.

  1. Never associate with any online site without diligently reading and understanding the privacy policy and terms and conditions of the site. Later can easily be found on the header or footer section of the site.
  2. Be aware of you responsibilities for patient’s privacy and protection of health information. Complete information is available at  information at the website of ministry of health family welfare, govt of India.