I'm in New York at the moment (hi Mom!). Yesterday I took part in a very interesting gig put together by the Consumer Reports Health organization, the folks who bring you practical ratings on everything from running shoes to "best buy drugs." It was a small gathering of health bloggers, online experts and journalists organized expressly to "encourage an interactive discussion bout consumer-driven healthcare and how health bloggers have transformed health communication." Hmmm, I suppose we have, haven't we?!
After all, in this day and age of educated, tuned-in patients who are able to communicate and organize on the web, the "Health Establishment" can't just wield its scepter anymore — not without being called to task by this multitude of consumer watchdogs. Or something like that.
And why does Consumer Reports run a health website, you may ask? In their own words: "As consumers become increasingly involved in their own health decisions and turn to the Web for answers to their questions, they need unbiased, accurate, evidence-based information to compare their options and to make appropriate choices for themselves and their families. Informed choices lead to better health outcomes, lower costs, and improved value." The blogging day they hosted consisted of two main panels, the first of which I participated in:
As a wrap-up, we were privileged to have Craig Newmark on hand, CEO of the enormously successful consumer commerce site Craigslist.org, for a discussion the importance of good customer service.
What he actually said was that we health bloggers should "keep pushing for better healthcare in this country -- that's a service in itself!" A rather big call-to-action, I'm telling you. More on Craig here next week.
A couple of items of interest worthy of highlighting:
* Web sites that rate doctors "are a mess at the moment," according to US News & World Report's Comarow. This is big statement coming from someone who works in the field. But the issues are 1) there currently isn't enough patient input, and 2) the data that ratings are based on is too process-oriented and not enough about outcomes, he says.
* What we really need are some standard, objective measures by which to compare and evaluate doctors. In the words of Consumer Report's Dr. Santa: until we have that, all this online rating stuff is pretty meaningless, because how can we compare quality if we can't even define it? TouchÃ©.
A happy, HEALTHY weekend to all.