See this UPDATE, too.

Sundays are pretty quiet here in Mighty Casey Media Land. Yeah, there are those Sundays where I read my wall calendar without my glasses on, and totally think it’s Father’s Day when it’s really Flag Day … but that’s about as exciting as it gets most weeks.

Today is one of the latter Sundays, where I not only cause a Father’s Day panic on Facebook (yeah, that’s a thing), but also get Twitter DMs that set my hair on fire. Which you know, if you’ve been hangin’ round this water cooler for a while, is never a good thing.

This morning, I picked up my phone while I was waiting for my coffee to brew, and what ho – a DM from my friend HealthBlawg with a link to a “stupid patients, don’t Yelp doctors” piece on US News with the headline “Online Doctor Ratings Are Garbage.” The piece is by Niam Yaraghi, whose pieces on US News usually have me nodding along in full agreement … but not this time.

In the “don’t Yelp, bitch” piece, Yaraghi essentially tells people they’re too stupid to understand medical care’s value and outcomes, that we should just lie back and think of England and let those nice doctors do their work.

Let’s take ’em in order, shall we?

Patients are neither qualified nor capable of evaluating the quality of the medical services that they receive.

Seriously?? Does Yaraghi know any cancer patients, or people with MS, or ALS, or rheumatoid disease, or diabetes? I’m pretty sure the answer there is “no,” that he knows a whole bunch of polysyllabic “experts” due to his work at Brookings, but very few ASPs (Actual Sick People). The patient community is teaching the clinical community constantly about both medical research and business operations.

I’ll say it again: input from the patient community is, daily, saving the bacon of MDs/NPs/PhDs and other letter-after-name denizens of the medical-industrial complex and their minions.

So slow your roll, Niam, and the next time you meet an ASP, thank them for their *own* work on healthcare quality improvement.

If patients are not qualified to make medical decisions and rely on physicians’ medical expertise to make such decisions, then how can they evaluate the quality of such decisions and know that their doctor’s decision was the best possible one?

It’s spelled S-C-I-E-N-C-E, bitch.

But hey, most of gen-pop (people who are temporarily, not permanently, ASP – like when they break their leg, or get pneumonia) might not be as UpToDate (yes, many of us read PubMed, and even understand it) as a practiced e-patient ASP. So what do most people do when they need to find some on-the-ground help for a health issue? They hit the web … and usually find us. Or Dr. Oz, which is regrettable, but that snake oil PR machine has got a big f**king ad budget. But even if they hit Oz first, they usually wind up with us.

And hey, are DOCTORS even the real experts when it comes to evaluating the efficacy of their treatments? Plenty of evidence suggests that clinicians get as stuck in Usual Suspects-ville as does any other profession. I call it We’ve Always Done It This Way syndrome. It takes 17 years, on average, for proven science to arrive at the point of care. If you get diagnosed with [pick a really big disease], do you want to just trust that your MD is up on all the latest treatment options, or do you want to be *sure* s/he is? Welcome to Dr. Google, dude. Yelp reviews don’t turn up on condition-specific searches, but *we* sure do.

Since patients do not have the medical expertise to judge the quality of physicians’ decisions in the short run and are neither capable of evaluating the outcomes of such decisions in the long run, their feedback would be limited to their immediate interaction with medical providers and their staff members.

I’ve addressed the “science, bitch!” thing above, but let’s drill in on that “outcomes” point, shall we? Have you, yourself, ever tried to find outcomes data on a doctor? Pack a lunch. A lunch that can last for days. Physician Compare on Medicare’s (CMS) site looks like it could serve up some stats … but it doesn’t serve up much beyond “has EHR tech that fulfills Meaningful Use requirements.” Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS – another CMS data bank project) serves up a whole lotta data – in table or spreadsheet form – but it’s pretty hard to parse “quality” from “takes Medicare” or “participates in PQRS” or “participates in eRX.” No notations as to whether s/he is Dr. Hodad.

How about, rather than bitch about patients who want to serve up UX (User Experience) data on their clinical teams, you use your keyboard to help create some clarity on quality reporting that can be understood BY. AVERAGE. HUMANS.

Instead of the quality of the medical services, patients would evaluate the bedside manners of physicians, decor of their offices and demeanor of their staff.

Bedside manner is no indication of the value of the care received at the hands of a clinician. I’ve had doctors look deep into my eyes, hold my hand, and then do a hard sell for a pharmaceutical product of questionable efficacy for my condition. I’ve taken a show about that on the road (sort of), which you can read about here.

Office decor reviews for doctors’ offices will only add ordnance to the arms race that US healthcare has become, where providers build more and more luxurious settings for us to get questionably effective care in … and then charge us higher fees for that care, since marble is really expensive.

To choose the best medical provider, patients are encouraged to rely on measures of medical expertise and avoid invalid online reviews. 

And just how the French-pressed **** are we supposed to do that, Niam? Having the whole alphabet after your name on a list of medical specialty MDs is no guarantee, at all, of either efficacy of care, or basic humanity.

Dr. Farid Fata had a solid platinum set of credentials as an oncologist – residency at Maimonides Medical Center, an oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and a respected practice in the Detroit metro area for over a decade – until the FBI burst into his offices on August 6, 2013 to arrest him for fraud. He’d diagnosed and treated people for cancer who did not have cancer. BTW, there were no Yelp reviews for his practice.

Here’s the thing: patients KNOW STUFF. Rather than telling us to shut up and stop Yelping, how about you recommend *listening* as a cure for what ails US healthcare? I’m a Yelp Elite reviewer – that and $4 will get me a crap fancy coffee at Starbucks – who’s a globally recognized patient voice, and I’ve posted four reviews of health/medical facilities (a 3% rate of review in my total number of 141 reviews to date). Two of those facilities are mammography practices. I’ve had breast cancer, so as experts go … yeah, I am one.

I don’t use Yelp reviews on my checklist for choosing a new member of my clinical care team, because I’m an e-patient expert with a massive global network in both the medical and patient communities.

So, hey, Niam, what’s your recommended roll for someone who’s got [insert suspected diagnosis here] and is looking for credible, actionable information to inform their decision tree? Until the clinical side of the house gets their outcomes reporting sh*t together … people gon’ Yelp.

Shut up and deal.

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From the Patients Are Smarter Than You Think Desk …
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