Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On the web

Just a random observation following some of our previous discussions about using websites to disclose hospital infection rates and other consumer-oriented information. Some of the comments I received at the time argued that the public could not be expected to understand such technical information.

I'm presently at a conference and using a computer in the hotel's business center. On the menu bar of the installed browser are shortcuts for the following topics: incontinence, senior health, prostate, menopause, health, and prescriptions. This reminded me that -- after pornography -- medicine- and health-related websites get the most traffic on the web.

So, part of the issue we in health care face is this. Do we want the public only to get their information from commercial and other types of websites included in categories like the ones above -- or do we want to offer them thoughtful alternatives from the people who actually deliver care? If we are overly cautious in what we allow to be published about our institutions, we cede this medium to others who do not necessarily all have the standards of care and ethical values that we like to exemplify. Shouldn't we worry about "the perfect being the enemy of the good?"

As I say, just a passing thought.


Anonymous said...

Paul--it's definitely better for health professionals to disseminate accurate information, rather than cede the territory to charlatans and fear-mongerers. Of course, this also demands that we get our measures right, otherwise we will do something even worse--disseminate inaccurate information with a veneer of respectability.

Unknown said...

I think it's fantastic that people research their health online, especially in the case of diabetics. As providers we should help to make sure there is accurate, easy to understand information for the consumers.

The same goes for grading and awards for hospitals / physicians. Clear, Concise, easy to look at and understand, fair measures.

I like to use my mom as an example. We have a local, Physician owned specialty hospital called "The Heart Hospital." From my home town it's a longer drive than to my hospital. My mom made a comment about, when she has her heart attack (she has hypochondriac tendencies) that she feared the long drive to the Heart Hospital. I asked why go to the Heart Hospital? Why not go to mine? That its a shorter drive. Her reply was, "Well, its the heart hospital, thats where they do hearts." I had to explain that we do more volumes in hearts and we have better performance in quality measures.

So there is a good example. My mom has more medical dictionaries than most doctors, and shes always on the internet looking stuff up pertaining to medicine and health. She educates herself and researches her own conditions (or self diagnosed conditions) yet bases quality decisions solely on the name of the hospital.

Someone needs to consolidate as much as possible. A website with all government quality data, patient dialogs and interaction, and medical reference, and I'm sure the list can go on. I think they are in the works though.

I think it's important that the whole picture is available, and made easy to understand. I don't think that is the case at this point in time though.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be appropriate to make SURE that there is a way of connecting the consumer audiences of these websites with someone who can help if they do not understand what they are reading-via an email address, phone number, etc. This might be a good way to solicit feedback on ways to improve your website as well.

Anonymous said...


Tangentially related, I thought you had mentioned previously that the ACS NSQIP program required participants to sign something that they wouldn't disclose the results. My husband, a retired orthopod, recently received several Outcomes Books related to his field from the Cleveland Clinic. (Out of the blue, by the way - an apparent "cold call" marketing idea.) In the back is a chart showing their NSQIP morbidity and mortality results July 1 2005 to June 30, 2006.
(They note that currently, the program includes cases from the depts of Colorectal, general and vascular surgery)

Is this the same program you have made reference to previously? If so, someone forgot to tell them they can't publish it! Interestingly, their morbidity results are higher than expected.....honesty is the best policy.

Vertical Man said...


"If we are overly cautious in what we allow to be published about our institutions, we cede this medium to others who do not necessarily all have the standards of care and ethical values that we like to exemplify."

Great point! This may be the clearest expression yet of the need for more transparency and self-reporting in health care. Thanks for keeping the issue on the boil!