Sirven: More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Your Doctor

By Dr. Joseph Sirven
Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 12:50am
Updated: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 5:09pm
(Photo courtesy of Dr. Joseph Sirven)
Dr. Joseph Sirven

Not too long ago the only personal information you could find about your doctor was the diploma hanging on the exam room wall. Of course, these days, the internet has changed everything. But KJZZ Commentator Dr. Joseph Sirven doesn’t think that’s necessarily good for his profession.

To all of my patients, please pardon my paranoia. You see, thanks to new websites that offer information about doctors, I just realized you know more about me than I about you.

Recently, a colleague called to congratulate me on how cheap I was. Excuse me? The government had just posted a new website listing details on every doctor who has received Medicaid payments, which is virtually all of us.

I looked myself up and realized that the data listed showed I was frugal in my collections but at least the information wasn’t wrong. Other doctors I know found multiple errors in their information but they had no one to complain to.

This payment site adds to a growing list of online sources that tells you just about everything about your doctor. There are websites that say if your doctor has received any payments from the pharmaceutical industry.  Others grade physicians based on how patients feel about them – a popularity contest, more or less. Some sites reveal if your physician is board certified, their surgical complication rate and whether a practitioner has ever had a complaint lodged against them by any patient.

Publication websites such as Pub Med lists every publication that your physician has ever written. Large medical institutions list doctors’ resumes online. In other words, you can get an extraordinarily complete portrait of your doctors just by Googling them, almost better than what you find on elected officials. Not too long ago the only information a patient had on a doctor was the diploma hanging in the exam room.

I get why this is a good thing. Having readily accessible information about your doctor is important and necessary. We trust this person with our lives, after all. Count me in wanting to know a lot about my doctor.

But is there a limit? They say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. A few weeks ago a well-meaning new patient tried to ingratiate herself, awkwardly, by reciting my resume. She knew my birthplace, the topic of my last speaking engagement — all of which she had found online.

I was so frightened by the exchange that I only uttered one word:  “Security!!!!”

So, here’s the question: How much should I know about you before we meet? Should I do an online search before our appointment? Should I troll through Facebook to see if you really didn’t drink on that vacation to Cabo when I suggested it would be bad for your health?  

Let’s agree that the next time you see me, pretend you know nothing about me. It'll make me feel more comfortable.

Dr. Sirven is a KJZZ commentator and a Scottsdale-based neurologist.

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