I was glancing over the "news" stories they feature on AOL's main page the other day (by now "the other week"...as I've sat on this idea for a while) and happened upon one which piqued my interest: Doctors Seek to Silence Online Reviews . Honestly, I'm reluctant to click on any of AOL's "news" links because chances are I'll be shuffled off to some guy's blog who apparently knows someone on AOL to get the prominent front-page link-up...
...but, I was a bit intrigued as it spoke to me in a language I have recently begun to be far too affluent in: medical.
It seems some doctors are so miffed about all those "Rate Your Doctor" sites readily available to even the least adept Googler, that there is now a service (or probably a few by now) where, for a fee, your physician can pay some "company" to troll those sites and report all the "bad" findings back to them.
This apparently was enough for some doctors to get so bent out of shape over that they've added yet another form for you to sign when you fill out that ever-growing stack they hand you when you get there: Basically, a promise that you will not go to any of these sites and rate them in any negative or derogatory fashion. Oh, and it doesn't stop there. You also cannot mention anything against them on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or even on your personal blog. You are, in essence, being stripped of your First Amendment rights in order to receive medical care from these doctors. And, if the trolling service finds you have indeed breached this contract with your doctor, you are then - terminated. Plus they can also then bring legal action against you. Nice, huh?
So, we are now being told that not only "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" - but also public criticism. This is absolutely ludicrous - it is censorship at its most base level.
I am not aware how many of you have used these ratings sites...or even know of their existence - but I have done so, for obvious reasons. (I have some medical issues for those of you who don't know.) Not that I would use them for any "make or break" decision device as I'd wait to "rate" my doctor after a face-to-face visit. But, I do like having at my disposal, the opportunity to peruse the credentials of a doctor whose name is the only thing known to me. You see...he had MY whole history splayed out in front of him to pre-judge me...way before he opens the door after that obligatory "two-knock" custom they must have learned somewhere between Pre-Med and Residency...and he has it still.
Certainly you've seen it, haven't you? Oh, surely I can't be the only one to sneak a peek at what's inside that mysterious manilla folder they gaze at, and up from, whilst talking to you. You know the one I'm talking about...that one they leave open...enticingly within arm's reach of you - when they are called out of the room for a moment.
Haven't you ever been curious about what's inside that thing? For sure it has lab reports and a little synopsis of your current and past ailments - but aren't you at all just a little interested or even a bit more than nosy to know what else they keep in there? It is, after all, YOUR folder - I've read and signed those disclaimer sheets I spoke of earlier...we are entitled to view it. So, recently, I've taken it upon myself to investigate just what my doctors say about me - you see...this is the stuff they never share - other than between themselves.
At the risk of implicating myself even further than I already have, let me toss out a few things I've surreptitiously gathered about myself during my "I spy with my little eye - super quick-like before the doctor comes back in" waiting game. (Thank goodness for that "two-knock" warning.) I have mastered the art of stealth equivalent to a James Bond Ninja - I can leaf through it - photograph it with my "super memory", return it to the original page and pop back on that papered "couch" with the agile ability even "Grasshopper" from that "Kung Fu" show of the '70s would have envied. Then to complete the whole effect - I don my "mesmerized by the circa 1980s 'worn at the edges from the cheap thumbtacks' human anatomy posters" facial expression. Trust me - I've got that whole dance down to a science - I AM poetry in motion - bad poetry...a Haiku perhaps - but nonetheless, I've yet to be caught.
But in a way I feel like I have been caught - I am that unruly child whose school folder is stamped "TROUBLEMAKER" and passed from one grade's teacher to the next - labeling me before I ever sat in that classroom chair. I have been classified, in the medical community, as "neurotic". I've seen my "medical report cards" - words like "worries unnecessarily", "convinced she has..." and the dreaded "reads WebMD" crop up here and there in my introductory referral letters.
So, while I am allowed to be "rated" and passed from one doctor to the other, I'd like to be afforded the same opportunity as these physicians who are demanding their patients NOT rate them. I DON'T want to be rated either - other than my condition, thank you. Keep your opinions of me to yourselves - you are already swaying the opinion of my next doctor before he ever sits down and talks to me himself. I don't need him coming in with some attitude that I'm going to be a neurotic head-case or troublemaker - calling him for everything I have, might have, or have "convinced" myself through WebMD that I must have. Trust me, like little Johnny in Kindergarten who might have pulled Amy's hair - don't label me because someone "tells" on me - give me the benefit of the doubt...perhaps I'm really not that bad.
And to all you doctors out there thinking of subscribing to (or who have) this "service" which really is a disservice...stop pre-judging your patients - you certainly don't like it when it happens to you. Remember, you took an oath to help people...and it wasn't "The Hypocritical Oath".