Trust the Internet or Your Doctor?

Doctors were once the most trusted members of the community, but now it’s the opposite. Why are we so desperate for our doctors to be wrong? I don’t get it.

That was the beginning of an editorial in The Daily Beast that made my hair stand on end. The undisclosed doctor/author did a fine job of writing and defending his profession, but I found it obvious that he/she still doesn’t understand why so many people distrust their doctor. The rest of this is from the two comments I posted, along with links to related articles.

TIME magazine cover


No, you don’t get it. Your sarcastic editorial, although interesting and well-organized, misses the point entirely. Americans pay twice as much on healthcare as other nations but still live sicker and die younger, according to the World Health Organization. Why is that? It’s certainly not because we now trust the Internet more than our doctor. It must be something else, and Steven Brill got closest to describing the problem in his TIME Magazine report, “Bitter Pill: Why High Medical Bills Are Killing Us.”

How has the Internet become a more trusted source of medical information than the family doctor? Maybe it has to do with the natural incentives of an industry that profits from illness and injury and spends twice as much on political lobbying as the military industrial complex to protect its obscene profits.

How is it that medical degrees have not only become meaningless, but are now causing people to actively disbelieve doctors? Maybe it’s because so little time (only an average of 21 hours?) is spent in medical school on prevention and the real pillars of health: nutrition, exercise and sleep. Maybe should separate the terms Medicine and Health and quit suggesting that we have the world’s best healthcare system when that’s far from the truth. Those in public health know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so maybe our public discussion and policy decisions should focus more on health and all the things affecting it, including poverty.

Maybe instead of defending your industry, its insane $3+ trillion/year in revenues, and the practice of keeping charges and the billing process secret, you should become a change agent within your industry. You might start by promoting transparency and honesty and the fact that procedures in specialized facilities in Malaysia, The Cayman Islands, or Costa Rica can cost much less, including air travel and recovery in a 5-star hotel on the beach, and produce better outcomes than having the same procedure done in your hospital. With such advantages, Medical Tourism is a growing trend, but there are many other trends set to disrupt the healthcare system you’re familiar with.


My response above may be over critical of doctors when the real culprit is the system they work within – the medical industrial complex of hospitals, drug companies, equipment & testing companies, and insurers. Most docs I talk to complain that they don’t get to spend enough time with patients to fully understand their condition, research alternative treatments, or coach them on lifestyle interventions.

And at the cause of my rant about the amount spent on political lobbying is the corrupting power of big money in politics and how otherwise well-meaning corporations are driven to serve the investment interests of shareholders and not public interests, just as politicians are driven to serve the special interests of financial donors. They, in short, behave as sociopaths as described in the award-winning documentary, The Corporation.

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