22nd January 2019

Patient blogger Nick Booth on why we need hardworking experts – not the Internet – when it comes to correctly diagnosing and treating leg ulcers.

OK, you’ve got a venous ulcer, you know that much. What can you do?

There are endless questions. Why is it so painful? Did my drinking cause this? Can more drinking ease the pain? Why don’t these bandages from Wilkinson work? Who can fix this? How?

Don’t ask your friends and relatives. Everyone’s a medical expert these days thanks to the Internet.

But a glowing screen only gives you data, not wisdom.

Data tells you that red thing is a tomato. Knowledge identifies it as a fruit. But only experience tells you not to put it in a fruit salad. You need all these elements – data, knowledge and experience – to get wisdom.

That’s why I prefer to ask a medical professional, rather than Dr. Google.

Doctors and nurses have a lifetime of impossibly hard study, continuous peer review and the wisdom gained from endless difficult decisions on the wards. Dr. Google is just an algorithm that promotes the best advertisers. Medical professionals are our best hope. Each doctor and nurse is a product of thousands of years of collective wisdom. Their knowledge base must be version 3.3 billion by now.

That’s why I always suspend any action until I can get an appointment with someone who is rushed off their feet. Someone who knows so much they forget that you’re 100 pages behind them. You don’t get wisdom from a glowing screen. You get it from someone who looks like they need to be refreshed.

After emerging from the surgery, I’ll spend time moaning about the outcome. My bandages aren’t halting the spread of this horrible wound. Which will invite more expert unsolicited advice from experts.

‘You should have told them you want to be referred,’ one Googliatrician will say. ‘You’ve got to exaggerate everything,’ an eminent searchologist will advise you, ‘if they say rate your pain from one to ten, you tell them 11.’

‘You’ve got to keep pushing them,’ another Cyber Specialist will say, ‘didn’t you listen to me?’

Well, no I didn’t listen. None of them were there, but they all seem to know what I should have done. The truth is that none of my medical heroes are out to get me deliberately. There’s very little awareness of these types of wound and the types of care that they need. It’s a highly specialised and rare skill.

That’s not me saying that, I heard that from Alison Hopkins and Una Adderley at NHS England. And they’re both doctors and nurses. You don’t get more knowledgeable than that. So stick that in your Cyber Salad, you internet know nothings!

Still, I wish I’d known about Legs Matter six months ago.