The power now with “the people” 1

Many years ago, perhaps 30 or 40, someone told us, “If you want to know what someone’s like, get them to write something down.” Of course this is so true it’s obvious.

But what has changed, in the last 25 years or so, is that modern communication technology has made it so easy to ask people to write things down, and so easy for them to do it, that’s if they want to. To us this is SO exciting. The only problem is that so few of us people seem to have realised it yet, and so few others seem to have realised it too.

One of our readers recently sent a letter by email to a medical specialist outlining some medical problems he was experiencing and asking whether he could provide a yes or no answer as to whether helping people with these problems was within his areas of expertise – this is the answer he got back.

We feel we’ve learnt SO much about this specialist from this answer.

Firstly, if he’s not going to provide a yes or no answer to the question that’s been asked, which we would have thought would be incredibly easy and take just a few seconds, it would seem extraordinarily unlikely that he would answer any other questions if we became his patient. (He could have come back with requests for the problems to be described in more detail, if he needed that information to provide an answer – but he didn’t do that.)

And what are we to make of his excuses for not answering our question?

That it’s a clinical question??? Dozens of other specialists have been asked the same question and he’s the first one to say that he’s excused from answering it because it’s a clinical question??? Has he treated the author of the email as stupid? Has he lied?

And so what, if there are “sham” emails being sent out to gather information as to how long it takes for replies to be provided? One would think that it’s incredibly unlikely that any specialist is going to be getting an average of as many as two emails a day, and how long is it going to provide two yes or no answers per day. So is this a legitimate excuse?

And what about the other side of the coin – how “disappointing” it is for “busy” patients to find out that they’ve wasted not inconsiderable time and money on having a consultation with a specialist who hasn’t had the expertise to help them. The specialist has lost nothing – he or she has still collected their money.

But perhaps specialists like this one are dependent on collecting money from patients who they can’t really help, because they’re not getting enough patients that they can really help.

As for the the last sentence in the reply, we are getting more and more feedback indicating that the knowledge of GPs as to which specialists it’s best for their patients to see is “scratchy” to say the least, to the point where we think it’s madness for patients to see specialists if they have’t got it from them in writing FROM THEM that their problems are within their areas of expertise, irrespective of what ten GPs may have told them.

And as for this particular specialist, or anyone else who provides similar answers – we’d be avoiding him/them like the plague!

Can we tell you this specialist’s name? No! For all sorts of reasons. You’ll just have to send your own emails out – it will only take you 2 or 3 minutes per email, once you’ve composed your email and you’ve got the email addresses.

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