ONLINE MEDICINE: Consumers Should Be Wary of ‘Check-Up’ Sites
Although Internet services have made getting information about doctors, health plans and hospitals easier than ever, some experts are cautioning consumers to be skeptical about what they are getting, the Seattle Times reports. While sites often offer a one-stop-shopping convenience, there is no way to guarantee how complete or accurate the information is. Dale Austin, deputy executive vice president of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, warned consumers: "Be a little wary of information that might be self-promotional or self-reported as opposed to information that's been verified by a third party." Additionally, some sites might charge for information that could be available free of charge if consumers do their own research. For example, SearchPointe.com offers doctor profiles including basic information, as well as sanctions from all 50 states, the Drug Enforcement Agency and Medicaid or Medicare for $9.95. But SearchPointe.com Director of Business Development Matt Connelly explained, "We realize you can go to the state for free, but we think we add the value that it's a one-stop data shop where you can get data from all 50 states." Sites also can only report information that has been finalized, which excludes pending complaints and malpractice suits that have been filed in local courts. Experts conclude that such services are "a good place to start," but "should not be the final word." Austin said, "It's valuable information, but I don't think it's the be-all and end-all. There's still value in talking to members of your family and neighbors about a physician and in interviewing a physician" (Rafinski, 4/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.