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What about HealthTap?

I guess you have heard about HealthTap, I even saw Ron Gutman’s talk at Stanford a few months ago. I’ve never thought that letting patients ask questions and letting physicians answer these questions without providing clear credentials, without knowing or seeing the patient in person is a good idea. To be clear, I think it’s a very dangerous idea, because people will probably use the service and while this Q&A approach would work in all areas, medicine is an exception. Practicing medicine happens in person, through real doctor visits, or even when online communication between doctor and patient is encouraged, a first real meeting is required (remember the model of Jay Parkinson,MD?).

I just found a great article covering this issue. An excerpt:

[U]sers post questions and doctors post brief answers. The service is free, and the doctors aren’t paid. Instead, they engage in gamelike competitions, earning points and climbing numbered levels. They can also receive nonmonetary awards — many of them whimsically named, like the “It’s Not Brain Surgery” prize, earned for answering 21 questions at the site.

So far, so good. But there’s more. The professional credentials of the physician answering your question, such as a board-certified specialty, are not available on the site. Instead, you get a crowdsourced “reputation level” built up by accumulating HealthTap awards, by  clicks of approval from other doctors and by other measurable activities at the site.

The advice itself is limited to 400 characters, a length the Times worries is “hardly well-suited for providing nuanced answers to some medical questions.”

I would love to hear what you think!

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I would love to ask doctors questions, not necessarily about specific items directly for me but what are the various therapies available and the efficacy of each. Stroke associations will not answer such questions because ‘that is a medical question and we defer to the doctors for that’. But then I’m a stroke survivor and I know that no doctor in the world knows anything specific about recovery because there is no specific knowledge about how to create neuroplasticity or neurogenesis. My questions would be related to how they are communicating with researchers to solve these unknowns.

    February 11, 2012
  2. Lisa #

    I’m an RA patient and was horrified to see doctors that did not specialize in rheumatology advising patients newly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis to “eliminate nightshades for 3 months” and “before you start powerful medications try elimination diets”. Another told a new RA patient that he probably had leaky gut syndrome and to go gluten free. I’m sure this is happening across specialties and it is very dangerous to patients that are newly diagnosed and afraid.

    November 19, 2012

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