transplants come to mind along with bone marrow transplants and innovative cures for cancer. Other changes have been more of a double edged sword. Of those my favorite has been the internet.
I would not want the reader to think for a moment that I want to return to some golden age of pre internet existence. There is not a day that goes by that I do not use internet based reference material as I look for the best answers and treatment for the patients I see. When I research to write blogs or books, the place I go first is...the internet. In my college days, all writing began in the library in front of a card catalog looking in rows of drawers with small cards that directed me to books, and articles and their bibliographies. It was a time consuming labor intensive pain in the process and I do not miss it for a minute. When I have to do research, I love the internet.
It does require something of us that is forgotten at our own peril. Not everything that is posted in the internet will be true or accurate. And very little of it is posted without some kind of purpose behind it. This seems so obvious that no one should have to say it. The recent State Farm commercial with the young woman who meets her French Model
date on the internet stands as the comedic warning. As she stands there with a fellow who looks more like the Neanderthal man with anything but a French accent she says, "You know they can't put anything that isn't true on the internet!" Well, "they" can and they do.
In medicine the most recent and discouraging example involves a website that I have referred patients to for
general information about medical problems. WebMD seemed to be a place where reasonably reliable information could be found by the public free from bias. Well, this past week it was revealed that in the campaign to bring the
Obamacare/ Affordable Care Act to life, WebMD received a contract for 4.8 million dollars to “teach doctors about Obamacare.”[i] What appeared to be an unbiased journalistic opinion turned out to be little more than an advertisement for a government program that was paid for with our tax dollars.
It really doesn't matter which side of the Unaffordable Care Act question you find yourself on, it should outrage us when tax dollars are used this way. When I was a youngster I read our local paper from front to back and I remember full page advertisements that looked like news articles back then. But, at the top and bottom there was always a small but very visible statement in parenthesis that said (this is an advertisement). Because of the disclaimer, I knew I was not reading an unbiased account written by a journalist who intended for me to know who, what, where, when, and why something happened.
WebMD has given away the trust I placed in them to write about medical issues free from commercial bias. In exchange they received several million more dollars than I would have ever given them. But, I won't
send patients there again without the warning.
And it is that warning that I am writing about today. Caveat Imperator or let the buyer beware! The internet is a marvelous place to do research about medicine as long as you carefully look at the source to make sure what you’re reading is not an unidentified paid advertisement. When looking at research the first question I ask is who paid for it? It's the medical equivalent of show me the money! If the website that offers to diagnose your problem also has banner ads for the drug to treat it, you might want to look someplace else. And, if the website that tells you how great government healthcare will be is being paid millions of dollars to do it, you might want to look someplace else for the facts.
As the Old Testament writer said, "the bribe perverts justice!"
[i] “Concierge Medicine: WebMD pockets
millions from Feds to promote Obamacare,” Washington Times, Tuesday November 12,
2013, by Jim McElhatton, retrieved electronically at www.washingtontimes.com.