One of the shocking and sobering aspects of social media is the vast amount of contemporaneous value judging now pouring forth from those small devices. Electronically empowered consumers rate everything. It’s just part of the perceived fun of being connected. Sites such as Yelp have become a major source of consumer information for this generation, and the doctor’s office is no longer immune.
We physicians are not used to such immediate and frank feedback. If you think this does not apply to you, just ask your teenager what is being said about you online. But being aware of this type of immediate, empassioned, no holds-barred feedback has it’s advantages. In the past the only feedback we heard mostly was negative.
If a patient was angry, frustrated, or embarrassed beyond tolerance, a complaint was filed. Complements were rare and unexpected. These days, however, passionate analysis is just as often positive given how easy it is to offer. Also, having my clinic actively involved and overtly receptive to being “Yelped” is in itself a badge of fluence in todays wired society. This generation expects the opportunity to give this feedback, and access to such feedback is often a selling point to new patients. And who are we kidding — it is happening whether we participate or not.
The curmudgeon in me sees problems. Such electronic feedback only comes from a specific population — those young at heart with nimble thumbs. Sometimes expectations from this crowd are unrealistic and immature, and may lack objectivity. After all, medical interactions are often complex and difficult to fairly value. Just because we have to deliver some degree of bad news should not result in us being panned. Also, these brief electronic comments are completely one sided. HIPAA laws prevent any counterpoint or counter complaint no matter how justified.
Realistically our entrance into this sphere of consumer feedback has already begun, and inevitably will proceed at an ever increasing pace. There is no point in resisting, so we should join in. Rather than becoming overly sensitive and defensive, let’s consider it an opportunity to learn and improve. Hopefully the grace we extend to our patients will flow back in our direction.
“Dr. Frederick” is a physician who blogs at Dr. Fredericks Second Opinion.
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