Last Updated on 9 months by

It's so important to get patient information correct - 100% of the time. Share on X

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been quite ill.

Initially, I thought I had injured my back — pulled a muscle or something. I was experiencing site pain, nerve pain, inflammation, and restricted movement. It was quite dreadful really, and painkillers only took the edge off the pain at best.

I couldn’t sleep, sit, work or engage in my normal daily activities. At night, I would roam about the house trying not to go insane with the pain.

I treated my back with heat packs, painkillers, saw my remedial massage therapist, and cut back on my gym activities. I did lots of stretching and I even tried a flotation tank. But nothing worked.

After 10 days, and a second visit to my remedial massage therapist, she suggested I visit my doctor to get some stronger painkillers, anti-inflammatories and perhaps a muscle relaxant to help relieve the constant muscle spasms and nerve pain.

I agreed, particularly as I was beginning to develop a rash on my back and side where I had been treating with heat packs. It was definitely time for some more serious medical intervention.

So, I went along to my doctor, only to be diagnosed with shingles!

A surprise?…not really

Why patient information must be accurate

My initial reaction was something along the lines of “What? Seriously?”

My doctor assured me it was shingles, particularly as I had begun to develop the classic rash on my torso.

“No,” I said. “That little rash is where the heat packs have irritated my skin. And what about the back pain. How is that related to shingles?”

My doctor then explained that all my pain symptoms, including my ‘injured back’ were a result of the shingles virus that lives in the nerves. It explained the weird shooting pains that I had been experiencing, the inflammation, the dull ache and the feeling of burning knives in my skin. And of course, I knew that a rash was a classic sign of the virus.

But truth be told, I was only half surprised…because I’d already come across the possibility that it was shingles.

More and more Australians are googling their symptoms BEFORE visiting their doctor. Share on X

Calling Dr Google…

As a seasoned health and medical writer, I’m used to researching all kinds of health issues. So, when I was researching ‘nerve pain and back injuries’, and possible treatment options, a few search results brought up patient information about shingles.

I read the posts, quite a lot of them actually, but wasn’t convinced that I had shingles.

While I had nerve pain, burning and tingling — which are classic symptoms — I didn’t have any of the other typical symptoms such as feeling unwell, headache, fever or a painful rash that looked like blisters. Even when I developed a rash, which was two small patches, they didn’t even slightly resemble what I saw in the multitudes of articles I read on the internet. Nor did it develop within the time frame described in the patient information on shingles.

So of course, I didn’t think that my back issues could be caused by the virus. After all, compressed nerves in my back could be causing the nerve pain, tingling and numbness I was experiencing, right?

Patients are increasingly relying on health and medical information they find on the internet. How correct is the information you're publishing? Share on X

Is Dr Google to blame?

Dr Google is not the most reliable source of patient information

Fortunately, I got to my doctor within 72 hrs of the rash appearing, and was prescribed antiviral medication, which is designed to reduce the severity and duration of pain, and the likelihood of ongoing nerve pain (postherpetic neuralgia) after the shingles virus has cleared up.

But if my remedial massage therapist hadn’t suggested I visit the doctor, I probably wouldn’t have gone when I did. Actually, if I’m honest, I may not have gone at all, because I was convinced by the patient information that was available that what I had was not shingles.

What would have made a difference?

This whole experience has made me think about the importance of patient information — not only delivering it in a way that the average person can understand, but making sure that patients get the full story, instead of what happens in 90-95% of cases.

If the information I had read would have explained that a rash can constitute a few spots instead of covering your torso, and they don’t have to be blisters, or that it can appear later than 5 days, I may have been at the doctor sooner.

Fortunately, shingles isn’t life threatening and so attending my doctor when I did, hasn’t made much difference to my treatment or recovery.

But still….it would have been nice not to waste money on remedial massage, flotation tanks and painkillers that weren’t working.

Want accurate, up-to-date patient information that consumers can understand? Want to be found on Google? Let me help. Share on X

How good is YOUR patient information?

What about your health practice?

Is the patient information you provide patients up-to-date and accurate? Does it cover for all possibilities, or just what happens in 90-95% of cases?

Furthermore, is it delivered in a way that your patient can understand?

Do you even have patient information sheets available, or a well-written health blog where your patients can find the facts?

If your patient communications could do with an overhaul, let me help.

As an experienced health and medical writer, I know where to source patient information, and I will go the extra mile to ensure it is evidence-based, accurate, up-to-date, and follows best practice recommendations. I can even provide you with references.

I’m also great at writing easy-to-understand health and medical information, so your patients are clearly informed, and not bamboozled and overwhelmed by clinical doctor-speak. I also ensure that your unique tone of voice comes through in all information you provide your patients.

And on top of all that, I can help you climb the ranks of Google, so anyone searching for current health information on the internet can find you.

If that sounds like something you need help with, head over to my contact page and send me a message.

Let me help you help your patients.


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