Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Advice for grads (new and old)

A few years ago I signed up for an account with one of those "suggest-a-doctor" sites as a way to get business.

Shortly afterwards I began getting emails that "a patient has sent you an appointment request." Figuring it was a prospective patient, I checked them. My plan was that I'd forward the info to Mary to call and schedule them.

To my horror (I guess I'm naive) people who used the site had absolutely no interest in actually coming to the office. They just wanted medical questions answered online. For free (of course).

Examples of typical questions I received included:

"I've been dizzy on and off for years. I've had lots of tests and seen many doctors, but none of them can find the cause. Can you tell me what's wrong?"

"I can't afford my medications. Can you please put samples with my name on them out in your front office? 3 months worth would be good."

"I don't have time to go to a surgeon, so can you tell me if I need back surgery? MRI images attached."

"I live in Farfaraway, but am willing to travel to Grumpyville if you can cure me. I'll do this only if you offer a money-back guarantee, and cover my plane fare."

"I think my husband is more sick from taking his pills than he is without them, but he will only stop if a doctor tells him too. Can you call him and tell him to stop?"

NONE of these people were established patients of mine. As best I can tell, of the 200+ messages I received over time, fewer than 5% were within 100 miles of my office. Some were from overseas.

Besides the obvious money issues here (I have a family to support. I am not free.) is the legal one. This basically amounts to treating a patient without actually seeing or examining them. I worry enough about getting sued by patients that I do see, and don't want to add ones I don't to the list.

I finally deleted the account last year.

So here's today's advice from Dr. Grumpy: Don't even bother with these sites. Unless the idea of practicing free, legally dangerous, medicine appeals to you.


bunkywise said...

This anonymous cyberworld has really caused people to lose their freaking MINDS! I'm almost beyond even flinching from stories like that and I find that worrisome, too. I think the worst is all the horrible comments people make on websites almost everywhere. I know you screen you get awful ones that don't reach the blog?

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Yes. Generally I delete spam links and comments that serve no purpose but to inflame (off-topic political rants, racist stuff, anti-semetic, etc.).

Packer said...

Dr. G you really need to get moved to the first listing on the Google search. If I get that one more time...
Can't begin to tell you how much it cost me last year trying to drum up business in the crushing recession. So when they call just hang up.

Ms. Donna said...

Oh dear. I admit to taking notes at Dr. visits, and following up with Dr. Google and her sites from the NIH afterward, (discussed with the appropriate MD afterward if advice is confusing )but to get and take medical advice from a Yak Herder? Oh my!

Anonymous said...

Holy moley. In my city, it costs over $ 300, just to get an online second or third opionion at a large, local teaching hospital.

Never remotely tried the online opinion thing, as I live close and can go in person, but FREE is simply not going to happen and certainly a diagnosis cannot be made without being seen.

I've even been without any insurance and would never have expected free, except from our local free clinic.

Aeris said...

Canada is free*. Solution: move to Canada!
*small fee in the form of taxes applies, you just don't know about it

Luckymom22 said...

I don't know if links work or not here, but here is one of my favorite articles from the Onion--which contains a proposed solution to the problem of the commenting trolls of the Internet:,26393/

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