They’re calling it the ‘Tripadvisor’ for medical procedures with the expansion of the Australian ‘Whitecoat’ website to include ‘reviews’ of doctors and specialists. These reviews will initially be non-clinical, with only those doctors agreeing to take part being listed. However eventually the website might go further with ‘restaurant’-style patient reviews of their own clinical outcomes.
Given that the website is run by private health insurance companies like NIB, Bupa and HCF, the AMA has expressed their concerns about the increasing influence of the insurance industry with many health professionals speaking out against the concept of being rated publicly on the internet.
With sites like Tripadvisor itself already under scrutiny in recent months for the posting of bogus reviews, a medical version does appear like another Pandora’s box of potential misinformation, unfair labelling and even slander. Nevertheless with consumers regularly posting internet reviews on everything from fleabag hotels to the handyman who assembled their Ikea flat pack, it all seems horribly inevitable.
Which is probaly just an excuse to post my own ‘horror hospital’ story, following a pedestrian accident in the inner city back in the eartly 2000’s. I’d been bowled over on a crossing by a driver who failed to stop at a red light and who was ironically driving a busload of disabled people at the time. Carted off in an ambulance to a nearby hospital, I was severely concussed, in considerable pain and feeling like I had just been crash tackled by the entire forward pack of the Canberra Raiders.
At the hospital there was an agonizing one hour wait, without any medication, before I was finally admitted to a makeshift ward. I was wearing a brand new woollen jumper which was quickly removed by an over-zealous intern via a lethal pair of scissors and then moved off to X-Ray. Diagnosed with a broken shoulder I was fitted with a sling, given a couple of Panadols and told abruptly that I would be going home in an hour as vacant beds were desperately needed.
Less than 45 minutes later and still incredibly dizzy, I was helped out of my cot by a nurse and instructed to get dressed. After almost passing out I was back in the bed with a lukewarm cup of tea and another 60-minute deadline to get the hell out of there. Finally back on my feet I shuffled out to the foyer of the hospital where I asked the desk attendant if they could call me a cab. My phone had gone dead and it was now around 1.00am.
“We’re not running a five star hotel here you know,” were the words of the almost hostile desk attendant, “you can grab a taxi in the street outside”. With my jumper shredded and a cold winter’s wind blowing, I stood shivering in the street, waiting for a taxi to come – all the time feeling that I was about to pass out at any moment.
Taxis were scarce and the wait seemed interminable. Finally after about 15 minutes of near hypothermia, one finally appeared. I motioned to flag it down but before I could it was intercepted by a young doctor and his friend, the very doctor who had treated me a few hours ago.
When another taxi did finally arrive I was feeling that crook that I almost asked the driver to take me to the nearest hospital. Home in bed, feeling like I had just spent the last twenty four hours in the belly of a concrete mixer, I began to reflect on the state of the NSW public health system. I scribbled out an abusive letter to the head honcho at he hospital but quickly trashed it in the bin. Had an open slather Whitecoat site existed at the time, God only knows what fury I would have unleashed!
BY COFFIN ED