mindset

#008 DOCTOR INTERNET BUT LIMITED INSIGHT

The Doctor Evka platform is about reflux in young children as well as some of its mimickers.  Some of the mimickers of reflux are food allergies.  In fact, I co-wrote a best-selling book about food allergies that might have vomiting.  It's know at the "FPIES Handbook".   A newer edition of that book is being written, and I am spending some time doing additional research on food allergies.  For fun, I decided to check out what Wikipedia had to write about FPIES (food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome).  What I found was so crazy and so factually inaccurate that I tore to shreds the first paragraph of a Wikipedia article about FPIES.  In other episodes of this blog, I  discuss Wikipedia can be edited by almost anyone at anytime.  Thus, the information found in Wikipedia might not always be completely accurate.  In fact, Wikipedia even writes about itself on its own website, "Wikipedia is not a reliable source".  I didn't realize how true this was until the information about FPIES was so deadly wrong.  

If you are searching for medical information about reflux and some of its mimickers, you might ask yourself, "Where can I get the best information?"    Some online websites might provide better, more accurate information than others. (Again there are no guarantees).   If you think that you have found such a website or if are lucky enough to stumble upon factually accurate information,  what do you do next?  

What if you somehow find yourself reading information that is more likely to be accurate?  What now?   When it comes to medical conditions that are associated with vomiting, feeding challenges, and difficulties with gaining an appropriate amount of weight, are you all good?  Is knowing that information enough?  Why or why not? 

OK...  let's say that hypothetically you have read tons of research papers about a specific medical diagnosis.  You have gone to various websites that you believe are factually accurate and have compiled a list of research articles - some of which disagree with each other in certain ways.  You have read like there's no tomorrow.  Now what?  Are you good when it comes to your or your child's diagnosis?  

Let's say this another way.  You now have some idea of where you can get your medical information.  This is not a fail proof formula as I can't predict which website you will wind up reading and what you will find.  Plus, even if you had ALL of the most accurate information in the world, which is probably hard to find,  you would still run into a problem.  Even if you look at information from lots and lots of reliable sources, having that information doesn't necessarily mean that the information you have gathered will translate into insight.

What do I mean by insight? There are multiple ways to look at the word insight.

In the dictionary, insight is a deep understanding.  It is being able to understand inner nature of things in a more profound way.  

Even if you read multiple articles about a specific condition,  you often are able to see that condition only from the information that you gathered from those articles as well as perhaps some kind of personal experience. That information may not be fully representative of what's going on with the medical condition. Most people, when they read articles, put their own spin on what they have read based upon their own lives... what they have seen and experienced personally.  You can have two people who see the same information right in front of them, but come to completely different conclusions.  

There are multiple different potential interpretations of the same information. You can have different interpretations of "facts".  Let me give you an example of that. So that you have a sense of I'm talking about, let's talk about it in terms of a story that recently happened to one of my friends who was driving.  My friend was driving along the same road that she drives regularly.    She was obeying the speed limit.  Her license and registration were all valid and not expired.   All the lights in her car were working properly.  While she drove, she looked at other drivers around her.   She noticed that the driver in front of her was smoking heavily in the car and had a similar looking car to hers.  She   did not think much of it.  She knew the ill effects of smoking and was not a smoker, but she wasn't about to tell a perfect stranger who was driving to stop smoking.   My friend continued to drive.   All of a sudden, a police car in back of her signalled her to pull over.  She complied but had no idea why the police officer would ask her to do that.

The police officer got out of the car.  She asked the police officer, "What's going on?"  She wasn't aware of having committed any traffic offence.   The police officer then told her, "I saw you toss a cigarette out of your car and onto the road. You should not be throwing lit cigarettes out of your car."   

My friend looked at him quizzically as she had never smoked in her life.  She asked the police office, "What are you talking about?"  The police officer had seen lit cigarettes being thrown out of a car and assumed that she was the one throwing them.  (In reality, it was the similar-looking car in front of her that was doing that, but she got blamed.)  The police officer was adamant that she must have been smoking because he saw the lit cigarettes being thrown out of a car, and he was certain the car was hers.   (He did not realize that another car just like hers was driving in front of her.)  While my friend was upset that the police officer was accusing her of something that she did not do, the police officer wondered why she continued to lie to him.  He finally believed her once he searched her entire car and found no evidence of any cigarettes.

There's no denying that a cigarette was tossed out of the car by a driver.  However, to the officer, it appeared that she had tossed it out.  In reality, the driver in front of my friend had tossed out the cigarette.   Two people - the police officer and my friend - were in close vicinity of each other but each experienced a very different event.  

I use this story to illustrate how you can have the same situation and come to to two different conclusions depending upon a whole bunch of other variables.  When people look at information, they usually see it through their own lenses.  Even with all of the information that we have been given, we might not understand the truth. The police officer was convinced that my friend had thrown the burning cigarette out of her car window because that is what he thought he saw.  However, it wasn't what really happened.  What he saw was not the truth.

Sorry to be using the example of the police officer!  I think that most police officers can be wonderful people, but I wanted to share this story to illustrate a point.  So much of the information that we get is interpreted by us or our senses in some way, and we come to conclusions that may differ from the conclusions drawn by another person who witnessed the same event.  

We can extrapolate this kind of thought pattern to medical conditions.  When it comes to a condition like reflux, the family member, the person with the "reflux-y" symptoms, and the doctor may all see the same condition in different ways. They come to it from different perspectives.

Who has the most complete picture?  None of them truly do.  While the doctor may know the ins and outs of the medical condition from a symptomatic, diagnostic, and treatment standpoint, the doctor might not know the ins and outs of living with the medical condition. The patient and his or her family do.  

In other words, two people can look at the same piece of information and come to completely different conclusions.  When you do online searches for medical information, you might gathered all kinds of data.  Even if you read and understand it, that doesn't mean that you have the full picture of a medical condition.  You can search for all kinds of information on the internet, and you could use the internet as your doctor.  However, by basing your perspective only on the data found online, your insight into the situation is still limited.

In a future episode, I'll discuss how you can get a more complete picture if two people come to the table with different insight.  

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