Don’t write about your physician interaction online, ok? Dumb.

Some physicians are upset because anonymous patients are leaving (reckless? sniping?) comments on review sites like Angie’s List and Zagat’s.  Welcome to the internet.

The response?  They’re asking patient’s to sign what amounts to a gag order (waiver form) according to this Associated Press article.  Welcome to medicine.

Dumb. Really dumb.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Why?  One of the sites that allows anonymous comments is going to create a “Wall of Shame” for physicians who use waivers.  A lawyer says the waivers likely will not produce successful results in a lawsuit anyway.  And if a patient really wants to share negative anonymous comments online, they will (despite a signed waiver).  It’s a snowball effect with bad outcomes.

What should a physician do?  Two possibilities:

  1. Change behavior so patients don’t have bad things to say.  Yes, there will be the occasional patient who is unhappy about everything.  They may even post a negative review online.  But when there are multiple patients saying the same things, it may be time to look inward.
  2. Embrace the long tail.  Ask all patients to review physician services.  Give them a business card (or an Angies’s form, pdf) or a list of reviewing sites to enable them to brag about how great the service is.  Get on the ratings sites and professionally respond to criticisms.  Build a page on Squidoo.  Write a blog.  Build a website. 

    Here’s the best advice, it’s from Seth and is especially pertinent:

    Google never forgets.

    Of course, you don’t have to be a drunk, a thief or a bitter failure for this to backfire. Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.

Second Opinions Online

USA Today has an article about online second opinion services. One would think it to be a booming market, however the largest three providers of said services only offer about 3,000 opinions annually.  Here’s the service explanation:

Online second-opinion services offer patients consultations from specialists based on the medical records that they fax, mail or send via the Internet. The average cost, payable upfront via credit card, is $500 to $1,500, depending on the number of radiology or pathology interpretations required. Patients then receive online access to a second opinion in about two weeks.

The problem: “A limiting factor is that most insurance companies do not cover remote second opinions.”

However, the Cleveland Clinic and Cigna recently inked a deal to provide (the former) and cover (the latter) online second opinions for insured individuals.  As more insurance companies begin to reimburse for the service, utilization is likely to rise.

Hospitals and YouTube

We’ve seen the lack of support in blogging in hospitals…

…but that still doesn’t (completely) explain the general neglect by hospitals of YouTube, and other online video tools.

Possibilities are endless for what hospitals and health systems could do:

1. Hospital tour – if you work in an organization where it’s easy to navigate the facilities, your patients are extremely lucky (and your organization is probably small or your leadership understands the need for navigation ease). A search of “hospital tour” on YouTube returns 582 results. Helping patients find their way around the hospital by familiarizing them with the facilities before they arrive will ease tension on what could be an emotional visit.

2. What to expect when you arrive at our facilities – when a patient arrives for a visit (giving birth, heart surgery, emergency room, etc.) confusion has the potential to reign, and a familiarity with where to park, where to go, who to seek, etc. that comes through the use of YouTube could be quite helpful.

Here’s an example from a foreign land…

[youtube:  3. Get to know providers, care givers, and staff – sticking with the familiarity theme, familiar faces on a stressful day can be helpful in reducing tension. Interviews with employees and providers could help patients get to know them and humanize health care just a little more.4. Health information on popular conditions and treatments – as a community service, provide information on common diagnoses and treatments, or other public health needs/concerns.

5. Other possibilities that you may suggest in comments.

Not to mention the inherent marketing value all of these suggestions hold…

Found this post, that comes from waaay back in 2006. Over 10,000 then, about 162,000 now. On the first page, however, most videos have to do with humor, history, and (General) Hospital (the tv show), not any of the above thoughts. The idea that hospitals need to be on the offensive when it comes to online tools is an argument of note.

But if a hospital or health system really wanted to stretch its comfort zone, it would start an online “tv” network through tools like Mogolus, blogTV, and Kyte. What would you put on a live channel? Well, there are a few suggestions above, but the possibilities are surely endless.