As heard on "Car Talk"

Saturday NPR is one of the highlights of my week. At one point MPBN would broadcast "Car Talk," followed by "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me, "Whad'Ya Know?" (which I would skip because I don't really care for it) and "Says You" in a wonderful line-up of nerdish entertainment every Saturday in the late morning and early afternoon. (I haven't heard that last one for some time, and I fear it's been dropped from the line-up, which saddens me.) I mention this by way of introduction to an essentially unrelated topic.

Among the sponsors of "Car Talk" is the website Angie's List (not to be confused with Emily's List), an on-line rating site for all manner of service professionals, now including doctors (as Click and Clack mention every time). And it's the inclusion of medical professionals that I find galling.

Now, before you assume that I think all doctors are god-like eminences that should be immune to the scrutiny and scorn of mere mortals, let me assure you that I favor accountability for my profession the same as any other. Gone are the days when doctors were unassailable authorities, (mostly) for the better. But a forum like Angie's List puts doctors at a distinct disadvantage, which they tepidly acknowledge on their FAQ page. Here's why:

Let's say someone writes a gripe about me... "Dr. Dan told me that my baby's leprosy was actually cradle cap, and wouldn't write a note instructing American Airlines to fly us to the island of Molokai. He's a stupid, arrogant jerk and I hate him." And let's say that Angie's List deigns to post this complaint. (I am not clear how thoroughly vetted complaints are, if at all.) Though Angie's List will contact me for a response, I am constrained by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (known to most as HIPAA) from sharing any detailed information about this complaint. I cannot discuss the diagnosis. I cannot discuss the treatment. I cannot discuss the issue in any meaningful way at all. This is thoroughly unfair, and allows cranks to take potshots at doctors when they don't get the answer they want, in a very public forum.

Most (if not all...do your own damn Google search if you're so motivated) states have a mechanism for complaining to the licensing board if you think a medical provider has behaved inappropriately or unprofessionally. Having been the lucky recipient of a frivolous complaint, it is a disheartening and tedious process. But the board comprises medical professionals with expertise who review the medical record. As tedious as it may be to compose a written response and submit the record, particularly since all complaints are investigated regardless of how inane they may appear on their face, it is a better means of dealing with grievances than allowing people to gripe about doctors with no means for fair response.

And it sticks in my craw every time I hear it during "Car Talk" station breaks.

1 comment:

  1. Dude. Welcome to my world. It is so frustrating to see ads for ratemyprofessors.com where any idiot can post anything about you. Especially when it doesn't reflect the level of the evaluations that you generally get.