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Video: “The Too-Informed Patient”

This video, “The Too-Informed Patient,” came my way lately. It’s featured on NPR’s Mar­ket­place website:

The Too Informed Patient from Marketplace on Vimeo.


The pup­peteer skit fea­tures the inter­ac­tion between a young man with a rash and his older physi­cian. The patient is an informed kind of guy: He’s checked his own med­ical record on the doctor’s web­site, read up on rashes in the Boston Globe, checked pix on WebMD, seen an episode of “Gray’s Anatomy” about a rash and, most inven­tively, checked iDiagnose, a hypo­thet­i­cal app (I hope) that led him to the con­clu­sion that he might have epi­der­mal necro­sis.

“Not to worry,” the patient informs Dr. Matthews, who mean­while has been try­ing to exam­ine him (“Say aaahhh” and more): He’s eli­gi­ble for an exper­i­men­tal pro­to­col. After some back-and-forth in which the doc­tor — who’s been quite cour­te­ous until this point, call­ing the patient “Mr. Horcher,” for exam­ple, and not admon­ish­ing the patient who’s got so many ideas of his own — the doc­tor says that the patient may be exac­er­bat­ing the con­di­tion by scratch­ing it, and ques­tions the wis­dom of tak­ing an exper­i­men­tal treat­ment for a rash.

“I just need you to sign this paper,” says the patient.

The doctor-puppet pauses momen­tar­ily, seem­ingly resigned to a new role. After the patient leaves, the doc­tor thinks to weigh him­self. The skit ends with the sounds of key­board typing.


The piece sup­plies thought-provoking details in under two and a half min­utes. It’s a use­ful teach­ing tool, among other things. There’s been some dis­cus­sion about it on the NPR site, the Patient Empow­ered Blog, the Health Care Blog and else­where. Some com­ments sug­gest annoy­ance, that the “informed patient” is mis­rep­re­sented here as exag­ger­ated or fool­ish, or that the skit is off mark.

To me it rings true, rep­re­sent­ing an older doc­tor who’s try­ing — openmindedly but not on the cut­ting edge — to embrace new tech­nol­ogy, and has the patient’s inter­ests at heart. His efforts and his knowl­edge are set aside.

My reac­tion is sad­ness. Am I the only one?


Thanks to the team who cre­ated this insight­ful pro­duc­tion: Pro­duced by Gre­gory Warner and Mara Zepeda, cre­ated by Sebasti­enne Mund­heim of White Box The­atre, acted by Charles Del­Mar­celle and Doug Greene, and voiced by two actors from Philadelphia’s Pig Iron The­atre Com­pany, and to NPR’s Mar­ket­place for presenting.

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

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One Response to “Video: “The Too-Informed Patient””

  1. Jackie Fox says:

    Like all humor, this is funny because it rings true. I try very hard to walk that fine line between not being completely ignorant and letting my imagination get the best of me thanks to Internet self-diagnosis. We need to be attuned to our bodies, and obviously if we feel like something’s wrong we need to speak up, but if we treat doctors like order takers, we are making a huge mistake. My hour of Web surfing can’t possibly add up to 12-plus years of medical training.

    Jackie Fox
    Author, From Zero to Mastectomy: What I Learned And You Need to Know About Stage 0 Breast Cancer

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