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Do my patients google me?

What started out as a question with commercial overtones, turned into an existential question.

I started out this month with one goal in mind, to reach out to more potential patients in my clinic. It meant creating a Facebook page Dr Kuheli, a twitter handle @Dr_Kuheli and an instagram account @Drkuhelibhattacharya , and then the usual “ what do you put on these pages other than your timings and locations you are available at?

And then the obvious question , are my patients googling me? Is India ready to search for doctors, online? Are we moving from word of mouth references to online references?

None, of these I hope to answer in the blog post. Because what happened this month, that is in the last two weeks or so, have nudged me to ask a whole different set of questions.

It started with a Medical representative, from a pharmaceutical company, who after one of his pharma calls, decided to breach the Doctor – Pharma formalilties and ask me, Madam are you a food blogger? I took a split second to decide how to field that question, till I finally said yes.

A few days after the event , I managed to get parking in Panjim, around the Garcia de Orta park noless, which for residents of Panjim is no mean feat. Having managed to park the car, I realised I had the golden opportunity to visit all the shops in the said area. I had been wanting to buy a particular shade of lip colour, and I slipped into the cosmetics shop. No sooner had I mentioned the shade of lipcolour, that one of the customers turned around and said ,” I read about you mentioning the lip colour in one of your beauty and fashion blogs.” I thanked her for having read my blog, when she mentioned, Doctor I don’t know if you recognised me but I am one of your patients.

Now, food is fine, but I wasn’t sure how I should react to the fact that my respectable persona of a doctor would now also have the added qualifications of a blogger of fashion. She quickly added, but I read a lot of your blog posts, I like the ones about your son, and motherhood.

A few days later one of my patients asked me how my conference was, the one on paediatric ophthalmology, but rather than what newly acquired knowledge could help her in her eye condition, she was interested in knowing who looked after my son while I was away.
One of the mothers of my patient, mentioned that she was expecting and enjoyed reading my posts on pregnancy, and I instantly wished I had written more during that time.
Another dad mentioned he had read my post about my stay in New York and had similar experiences.
All these people came up to me, in the last two weeks alone. While I have been blogging for the past 9 years or so, and most of it has not been medical information, and sometimes it is difficult to fathom I am a doctor, by just reading my posts.
One of my patients had been referred by another doctor. Now thispatient has been an avid reader of my newspaper column, she also follows my culinary journeys on other portals. And when the doctor mentioned Kuheli, she instantly associated Bhattacharya, with the name. she knew of only one Kuheli, and her sir name was Bhattacharya, what were the chances then that the referring doctor should mention the same name, and that too as a Doctor!

I wanted to ask her was she sceptical coming in to visit me, knowing that I blog about food and travel? Or did it just mildly pique her interest?
Does it affect my credibility as a doctor, and do my patients take my medical advice with a pinch of salt, knowing that am a newspaper columnist, a writer of story books, and a baker of oatmeal cookies? Or does it help humanise me ?
I started out this month trying to create a separate identity for myself as a medical professional, free of my shackles of being a blogger. My independent twitter and instagram identities are a testament to that. I even have individual visiting cards for my various ventures, and I rarely encourage conversations to veer away from the patient and his condition when they come to my clinic. And yet my googling patients were privy to my life, as a social media ‘influencer’ and blogger.

So what started out with me asking?
Can I get more patients through the internet?
And the answer to that is only time will tell, and when it tells me, I will be sure to let you know about it in , what else , but a blog.
Went on to question..
Are my patients googling me?
And the answer to that is a resounding YES!
And then I went on to question…
Are they getting the right information when they google me?

My multiple personalities can have them confused, but then many of them realise the humongous task of managing so many many roles. And I got my answer recently from a young 16 year old science student, “You are doctor, mother and a blogger. You write about others, someone should write about you. You know, with all this women empowerment and all these days…”

I just hope all my patients would feel the same, but the truth is I write not to be noticed or to stand out. I write because I think I started to write in my head even before I began to talk, I write because it helps me think more coherently, I write because it is as essential as breathing to me. 

And to think that my writing might in anyway be getting in the way of my profession as a doctor, is heartbreaking, and to believe that my writings might actually bring more patients to me, is purely incidental.


Aloka Hedau said…
It's a wonderful blog..the problem is India we compartmentalise people a lot. Like musicians can't be academic...scientist cannot play music...doctors can't cook...waiting for a time in country where people can be studying medicine and doing a major in arts together...We want our children to be involved in sports academics and extra curricular activity but suddenly in high school we want them to drop everything and read. We need to humanise and explore the various likes and dislikes of our soul throughout your life..Kuheli exist as a wholesome person.patients will recognise your potential when they heal!
Asavari Bachhav said…
It is weird to have patients enter ur personal space..I don't friend so many of them on Facebook because then it becomes too personal..and I believe firmly in the old adage that a certain aloofness and distance from the patient is necessary for the best treatment u can give as it keeps my head clear without the added pressure of thinking that I am treating a friend! Also they have a what we not-so-fondly call the grey hair syndrome..the patients love me but the MILS not so impressed by the apparent lack of grey hair and therefore according to them experience and takes effort to speak and dress like I am 40 years old and I would definitely not compound that problem by making patients privy to my not so old social life! It may be different in your field Kuheli..but this is what we face as currently social presence just means popping up in online publications and a Facebook page! Till the hair greys!
Thefoodietrails said…
Yes, that is the hope Aloka, that they value the care. But ofcourse we cannot know what a patient googles, they may search me by name and I hope that they read my medical qualifications rather than my blogs, but even if they do read my blogs, I hope they are encouraged to visit me, rather than be discouraged.
Thefoodietrails said…
Absolutely Asavari. I never friend my patients on Facebook. When they google me, they are privy to my open access pages such as my blogs. I am trying to separate my identities and so now I have a separate doctor kuheli account on FB, twitter and Instagram. For patients, but then again our blogs are open access, and as you will realise in time that one cannot completely dissociate from our personalities. But, yes the grey hair syn is there. As aloka will affirm too, that's why we wear saris to work.

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