Customer Care

A while back, I read an article - somewhere on HealthCentral? I forget - about doctors in the US requiring their patients to sign an agreement not to rate them on e.g., RateMD before they would treat them and it's been rattling around in my mind for a couple of months. Aside from the blackmail aspect, I couldn't quite figure out what bugs me so much about it, but I think the lightbulb’s finally gone off.

It's the hypocrisy.

In the US, medical care is treated as a commodity, a product to be marketed and sold to those who can pay for the service. If you offer your services as medical professional as a product, patients become consumers of that service, become customers and as such, are entitled to treat your product the way they would any other product bought on the open market. Other products out there have websites dedicated to review and rating of the product, the customer service involved in acquiring the product, etc., so why not healthcare?

You can't have it both ways. You can't call it Holy Healthcare, requiring us all to bow down before your saintly self, meekly accepting your bestowing your knowledge and medical expertise upon us, groveling in gratitude as we leave your office if you are selling said medical expertise. There's a big difference between being paid for what you do and charging what the market will bear, selling your service to those who are willing to pay and refusing care for people who can't. If you do that, you are treating your career/profession/services as a product - an exclusive one at that - and you are no better than any other manufacturer or service professional.

(Of course, it could be argued that regardless of how you offer medical care, you are no better than anyone else, but a discussion of the God complex instilled in doctors in medical school is a post for another day…}

And that's what bugs me. Well, obviously blackmailing your patients into a completely powerless position, muzzling their voice and preventing other people from finding out if you're the kind of doctor they want to see is kind of unethical, isn't it? But in addition and quite frankly, I think it would be a healthy thing for more doctors to be rated by their patients customers - maybe that would improve the bedside manner, the ability to listen and reduce the arrogance levels just a tad. Think customer service, dudes. After all, you are selling yourself, aren't you?


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