Sorry, Doc, I don’t feel ‘blessed by angels’

Before selecting my doctor — let's call him Dr. P — I wish I had checked out the doctor reviews Doctor
at RateMDs.com. I would have realized that Dr. P is severely lacking in his bedside manner and I'd be better off consulting Dr. Z.

Here's what one patient wrote about Dr. P: "Horrible manners. He doesn't ask if there is anything else he can help you with or even say goodbye. He just walks out the door. Considering how long the wait is to see him, you'd think he would take a little longer with his patients."

Having seen Dr. P a couple of times, I'd have to agree with the patient's review. Dr. P is in desperate need of some people skills. Perhaps he can borrow some from Dr. Howard Schafer, the outstanding OB/GYN specialist in Lafayette, Indiana, who helped my wife through two pregnancies.

Here's what one patient wrote about Dr. Schafer: "Dr. Schafer is deserving of so much respect! His presence just makes you feel blessed by angels. I truely believe he is doing what the good Lord has put him on this earth to do."

Okay, that reviewer was probably the pastor's wife. But here's another who's more specific: "He's a very good listener. He will not rush you. Very patient and very good bedside manners. Very gentle. I moved to Canada and really missed him during my third pregnancy. Highly recommended."

Yes, Malathi did miss him during her third pregnancy, including that screaming session known as the delivery. I'm sure many of Dr. Schafer's patients feel "blessed by angels," while many of Dr. P's patients feel "cursed by witches."

Dr. P would probably support an effort by some doctors to "gag" their patients — keep them from sharing their opinions online or elsewhere.

They're asking patients to agree to what amounts to a gag order that bars them from posting negative comments online.

"Consumers
and patients are hungry for good information" about doctors, but
Internet reviews provide just the opposite, contends Dr. Jeffrey Segal, a North Carolina neurosurgeon who has made a business of helping doctors monitor and prevent online criticism.

Some
sites "are little more than tabloid journalism without much interest in
constructively improving practices," and their sniping comments can
unfairly ruin a doctor's reputation, Segal said.

Segal said such postings say nothing about what should really matter to patients — a doctor's medical skills — and privacy laws and medical ethics prevent leave doctors powerless to do anything it.

His company, Medical Justice, is based in Greensboro,
N.C. For a fee, it provides doctors with a standardized waiver
agreement. Patients who sign agree not to post online comments about
the doctor, "his expertise and/or treatment." [Link]

Fortunately the waivers haven't been effective so far, at least not with RateMDs.com.

John Swapceinski, co-founder of RateMDs.com,
said that in recent months, six doctors have asked him to remove
negative online comments based on patients' signed waivers. He has
refused.

"They're basically forcing the
patients to choose between health care and their First Amendment
rights, and I really find that repulsive," Swapceinski said.

He said he's planning to post a "Wall of Shame" listing names of doctors who use patient waivers. [Link]

I'm sure some doctor reviews are unfair. And patients would be wise not to rely on them completely. But all things considered, I'm glad there's a place where I can find out if a particular doctor would be like Dr. Schafer and get "two thumbs up" from Ebert and Roeper, or if he'd be like Dr. P and get "two bums up."

Photo by dmason


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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

Comments

  1. I had no idea you had spent time/lived in Indiana! How long did you live here? I’m an Indianapolis native, born and raised, but I’m also no stranger to Lafayette! Neon Cactus here I come!

  2. Zach, I lived in West Lafayette from 2000 to 2005; my wife had been there since 1997. She got her doctorate from Purdue.

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