Preparing medical students and doctors for the social interaction with web-informed patients (WIP)

[Translate to English:] Bildnachweis: Eberhard Hahne/Deutsches Ärzteblatt

The project was carried out (01/2013-12/2016) in the course of the first interdisciplinary Science Campus Tübingen (WCT, “Education in Information-Environments”) with researchers of the Leibniz-Institute for Knowledge Media (IWM) and in cooperation with different disciplines (e.g. gynecology). The influence of web usage of patients on the doctor-patient relationship was examined.

In former times, patients primarily received medical information through their doctor. Nowadays, medical information is easily accessible for anyone anytime via the internet. Patients use this possibility more frequently to inform themselves about and/or exchange information of symptoms, diseases and possible treatments. The acquired knowledge and the fact that even communication between doctors and patients shifted towards digital media, increasingly affect the doctor-patient relationship. With this kind of influence of the internet, new challenges arise. Present and future doctors have to face these challenges without being explicitly prepared for it.

Considering these tendencies, the project concentrates on developing and researching evidence-based formats of teaching and learning, providing an application-oriented and practical way to train doctors and doctors-to-be how to interact effectively with a web-informed patient.

Within one project activity medical students were confronted with text-based patient requests regarding different topics of differing complexity via a simulated internet forum. Students were supposed to process the requests self-directedly and without the usual time pressure of the medical treatment situation (face-to-face). They were expected to apply specialist knowledge from their study context to a real situation as well as competences of communication (e.g. finding and evaluating sources, professional phrasing of the reply, joint decision making). To prepare students for a professional web-based communication different formats of teaching and learning were applied and were reviewed according to acceptance and effectiveness. Another follow-up project activity addressed the confrontation with web-informed (standardised/acting) patients.