Whether you’re dealing with cold symptoms, a rash, headaches or a stomach bug, you might spend hours scrolling online long before you call your doctor’s office.
Dr. Google can be helpful. But in some instances, online searches can cause unnecessary panic and lead to medical misinformation.
Northfield family doctor helps decipher online research
Dr. Ryan Meintz is a family medicine doctor who cares for children and adults at the new UCHealth Primary Care – Northfield in Denver’s Central Park neighborhood. It’s part of the new UCHealth Northfield Medical Center, which also provides urgent care, physical therapy, rehabilitation and occupational medicine.
Believe it or not, Meintz likes tackling medical misinformation head-on. He encourages patients to bring in research and questions they have gathered from online searches.
One of his top skills — in addition to his medical knowledge — is being a good listener. And Meintz is happy to help patients discern the difference between legitimate research and medical misinformation.
“I encourage people to show me what they’ve researched. Let’s look through it together,” Meintz said. “If they looked something up, it means they’re engaged.
Picking creditable sources is key when asking ‘Dr. Google’
He advises patients to be very skeptical of information they’ve found on social media and instead suggests they seek out information from reputable sources. These include respected health care organizations and government websites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Federal Drug Administration.
“Knowing the source is so important. If you’ve found information on a place like the UCHealth website, then you know it’s been vetted,” he said.
Patients can also rely on peer-reviewed medical journals. To have their work accepted in a peer-reviewed publication, study authors must share their methods and findings so that other scientists can try to duplicate the research. By definition, real medical research must be open and transparent.
If a patient is relying on unreliable information, Meintz will “steer the ship in another direction. I try to use what they’ve researched and turn the conversation in a positive direction,” he said.
Northfield family doctor embraces transparency
He also encourages patients to be open about any medications or alternative therapies they may be trying at home.
“The last thing you want to do is find out that somebody’s been taking something that might be harmful to their health because they heard about it online,” Meintz said. “If someone is really interested in starting something, and I don’t find harm in it, then of course I’ll take that into consideration.”
If people are choosing not to get vaccinated or are taking substances that could harm them, Meintz has found it works wonders to be open to dialogue.
“I ask them to list their concerns,” Meintz said. “I tell them, ‘I’m willing to hear you.’”
Then he shares data based on research.
“Reasonable people will listen. You’re moving the needle forward,” Meintz said. “I don’t get caught up in winning or losing. We’re just moving forward.”
Passion and respect central to this doctor in Northfield
Meintz loves being a family medicine doctor.
“What drew me to it is the breadth of issues we get to see. We care for everyone from children to the elderly. We get to see life through its entire journey.”
He loves building lasting relationships with patients over years and loves to empower patients to play an active role in their health. For instance, if he has a patient who comes in with diabetes, Meintz will empower the person by having them choose what treatments they want to focus on first: diet, exercise, medications. Giving patients power over their health helps them be most successful, Meintz has found.
“I believe my role as a medical provider is to advise patients to make the best decisions for their health in a way that puts their goals first,” he said.
Originally from St. Louis, Meintz attended medical school in Kansas City and did his residency in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has lived in Colorado for about five years and like many Coloradans, loves being outside in nature.
“We have great outdoor spaces for hiking, camping and skiing,” Meintz said.
He also enjoys cross-country skiing and kayaking and encourages his patients to adopt healthy lifestyles.
Learn more about UCHealth Primary Care – Northfield.