Background: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common reproductive and metabolic disorder in women; however, many clinicians may not be well versed in scientific advances that aid understanding of the associated reproductive, metabolic, and psychological abnormalities. Women with PCOS are dissatisfied with health care providers, the diagnostic process, and the initial treatment of PCOS and seek information through alternative sources. This has affected the patient-physician relationship by allowing medical information acquired through the internet, whether correct or not, to become accessible to patients and reshape their health care perspective. Patient dissatisfaction with health care providers regarding PCOS raises questions about the responsibilities of academic institutions to adequately train and maintain the competence of clinicians and government agencies to sufficiently support scientific investigation in this field.
Objective: The primary aim was to examine internet searching behaviors of the public regarding PCOS vs another highly prevalent gynecologic disorder. The secondary aim was to explore satisfaction with health care among patients with PCOS and their internet use. The tertiary aim was to examine medical education in reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) during obstetrics and gynecology (Ob/Gyn) residency as a proxy for physician knowledge in this field.
Methods: Google search trends and StoryBase quantified monthly Google absolute search volumes for search terms related to PCOS and fibroids (January 2004 to December 2017; United States). The reproductive disorder, fibroids, was selected as a comparison group because of its high prevalence among women. Between female groups, monthly absolute search volumes and their trends were compared. A Web-based questionnaire (June 2015 to March 2018) explored health care experiences and the internet use of women with PCOS. REI rotation information during Ob/Gyn residency in the United States was obtained from the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics website.
Results: For PCOS (R=0.89; P<.01), but not fibroids (R=0.09; P=.25), monthly absolute search volumes increased significantly. PCOS-related monthly absolute search volumes (mean 384,423 searches, SD 88,756) were significantly greater than fibroid-related monthly absolute search volumes (mean 348,502 searches, SD 37,317; P<.05). PCOS was diagnosed by an Ob/Gyn in 60.9% (462/759) of patients, and 57.3% (435/759) of patients were dissatisfied with overall care. Among patients with PCOS, 98.2% (716/729) searched for PCOS on the Web but only 18.8% (143/729) of patients joined an online PCOS support group or forum. On average, Ob/Gyn residencies dedicated only 4% (2/43) of total block time to REI, whereas 5.5% (11/200) of such residencies did not offer any REI rotations.
Conclusions: Over time, PCOS has been increasingly searched on the Web compared with another highly prevalent gynecologic disorder. Patients with PCOS are dissatisfied with their health care providers, who would benefit from an improved understanding of PCOS during Ob/Gyn residency training.
Keywords: Google; PCOS; fibroid; health care; healthcare quality; infodemiology; infoveillance; internet; medical education; satisfaction.
©Luis R Hoyos, Manesha Putra, Abigail A Armstrong, Connie Y Cheng, Carrie K Riestenberg, Tery A Schooler, Daniel A Dumesic. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 21.04.2020.