Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Freedom of Information: About Your Doctor!

Patrick Malone and I must be on the same wavelength... His article on HuffPost captures exactly why it is so very important that we as consumers be able to learn more about our doctors.

I know I've mentioned some of my family's experiences about unnecessary doctor visits, misdiagnoses, etc., in previous posts. For anyone in Atlanta, let me know if you're investigating neurologists, there's a couple out there who are absolutely horrible, and I'll happily share their names with you offline so you don't have to bother seeing them.

But getting back to the article at hand... Malone makes a great point about something he calls:

"no patient left behind" -- a simple report card system to give patients a heads-up about their doctors' credentials and safety record, something almost impossible to get now.
I think I've finally found a good neurologist for my family, (fingers and toes crossed), but in order to do so, I had to:
  • get lucky enough to find a very caring employee at my insurance company who went through the entire doctors' list looking for the information that they had on the doctors... where they went to school, when they graduated, where they did their residency training, etc.
  • call all the offices to see which were accepting new patients
  • talk with people who worked there to get a feel for how skilled the doctor was, would the staff actually go see him/her for their problems, etc.
All in all it took me a few days to get all this researched. And even so, there are no guarantees. So I'm in a wait and see mode at the moment. Here's hoping that our doctor who trained at Emory lives up to the hospital's reputation.

As for Malone's "no patient left behind" idea. I think it makes nothing but common sense. We can all go online and look up reviews on lots of different products and services that we may or may not need. For something as important as our personal health and well being, we should at least be able to look at a safety record.

I think the reason I am most passionate about this idea is that I lost my Gram to an unsafe doctor a few years ago. Her mom (my great-grandmother) had died just a couple of years earlier, so based on my family's health history, I honestly expected her to be with us for at least another decade. Unfortunately, the doctor did not follow Mom's instructions (she had medical power of attorney for Gram). The end result was that Gram had to live the last year of her life suffering from the effects of stroke and congestive heart failure. And just when we thought she was going to get better, she didn't.

I have missed one of my truest and best friends ever since.

If we had had access back then to more information about her doctor, including his safety record, Mom and I would have known to take Gram to a completely different doctor, instead of the one who made such bad decisions about her care.

Now I know that some who read this post may say that knowing more info about the safety records may lead to more malpractice suits... but I think it would actually cause the opposite to occur.

If we knew the skills and abilities of our doctors, then supply and demand suggests that we would go to the better service... given that those doctors are in our insurance networks. Those better doctors would probably have more accurate diagnoses, resulting in prompt treatment of conditions and fewer unnecessary visits to a whirlwind of specialists. Bottom line, health care and malpractice suit costs would be reduced, not increased.

Your thoughts?


  1. Thanks for your comment on my Huffington Post piece. By coincidence, I'm going to be talking about my book, "The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care - and Avoiding the Worst," at 6:30 pm Wednesday on WRFG 89.3FM in Atlanta. you can watch and listen to other media interviews with me at my book site: http://lifeyousave.com
    Patrick Malone

  2. Wow, that is a great coincidence. I'll tune in and definitely share your interview with my Atlanta friends. Thanks for calling attention to this very important issue.

  3. Here's a link to a petition to our government to keep the public option as part of health care reform: http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/publicoption_bo/?rc=fb_share1.box


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