Health Consumer Power via the Internet

I read a story in my local paper yesterday entitled Internet gives angry consumers new power, which began with a story about a man named Sterling Bishop who was unhappy with the work Pep Boys had done on his car. Mr. Bishop made a video showcasing the shoddy work, put it out on You-Tube, and finally got Pep Boys’ attention. The point to the story was that the internet can be used as a tool to balance the vendor-consumer equation because it allows the “little guy” to take on the vendor-goliath in a very public way.

As I thought about it, I realized that is just what William LLoyd Sheely is doing. Mr. Sheely contacted me several weeks ago to make me aware of his blog about his mother’s death from cancer when, Mr. Sheely claims (and provides proof with scans of documents on his blog), nobody ever acknowledged that his mother had cancer.

Mr. Sheely’s blog is a rant against the doctors and facilities that treated his mother. And he names them all. There’s no question about who the offenders were. Doctor’s names. Hospitals names. Right there in black and white.

There are some real commonalities between Sterling Bishop and Lloyd Sheely. Except for one thing. And that’s the advice I’ll provide for you today.

Having a clear goal for your online complaint can make all the difference in outcomes. In the case of Sterling Bishop, he knew what his goal was — he wanted his car fixed correctly and he wanted Pep Boys to make it right. Before he went public on the internet, they had been unwilling to do so. Now, it seems, the car is fixed.

Mr. Sheely doesn’t have a clear goal, and as a result, he won’t receive the same satisfaction. Is his goal to put the doctors and hospital out of business? I hope not, because too many others who are being helped by those doctors and that hospital would be hurt. Is his goal to get them to acknowledge their errors? Even apologize? Perhaps. But I can’t find that request anywhere. Does he think he should be entitled to money? Or forgiveness of bills? In his heart, he probably hopes it will bring his mother back to life, but of course, that can’t happen.

I wrote to him and asked him what his goals were, but his reply to me wasn’t much clearer. Perhaps his blog is simply a catharsis. Hard to tell.

Again — that’s the point. If you feel like your health or that of a loved one has been wronged by a healthcare provider or facility in some way — by all means — complain! But be clear about your expectations of those you complain to. State your goals clearly so they know what it is you want them to do. They can’t read your mind, and you can’t expect them to read between the lines either.

Stating your goals is also a way of managing your own expectations. If you don’t, you’ll never find the satisfaction you seek and your frustration and anger will never be resolved.

That’s good consumerism — and — it’s sharp patienting. It’s Patientude* at it’s finest.

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3 thoughts on “Health Consumer Power via the Internet”

  1. Point well taken. After years of frustration I found that the medical professional does have some caring people. When I learned to present my concerns in an organized, rational manner, I received the best that those doctors had to offer. They didn’t have solutions, but they were willing to acknowledge that my problems were real.

  2. I followed the link to the gentleman’s blog and I think he was very clear about his purpose:

    “I write because my rights as the primary caregiver were falsely taken-away as medical “professionals” went on “very-false-very-slanderous hear-say” about “this medical professional” (health-educator). I write and blog “to make a difference” and already have in at least one-doc and hopefully many-more readers. I write about “this horror story” because I do not want “it” to happen to another caregiver-family-member or their mother/father. I write because I HAVE A RIGHT TO RECEIVE AN ACCOUNTING OF DISCLOSURES REGARDING & THEREAFTER MY MOTHER’S DEATH…WHICH TO DATE HAVE NOT BEEN SATISFIED…as some VERY SIGNIFICANT questions-still-to-be-answered cause those-docs to “hide”…”

    There are still so many patients out there who have been taught to never question a doctor’s opinion/decision/diagnosis. We all need to be aware that doctors do make mistakes, medical histories aren’t always accurate, and that we all need to be more vigilant in our healthcare. Once of this authors goals is simply to make us more aware and I think he’s meeting that goal.

  3. As dxunknown points out, this gentleman does in fact make the purpose of his blog clear, and even before I read this statement, I understood what his intent was. His intent was to expose his horror story to the light of day, because no solution can be found so long as the truth is hidden under a protective layer of darkness. I think it is very condescending to suggest he somehow hopes it will bring his mother back, or that he’s looking for money.

    The truth is the most powerful weapon there is. The truth speaks for itself. It shouts in our faces and demands that we hear it. Exposing the truth for everyone to see is the most powerful form of advocacy there is. The message of his blog is loud and clear: this shouldn’t have happened, and it must not happen again. There are good doctors and administrators who are going to see what this guy wrote and be inspired to address problems in their own facilities.The bad ones are going to see that some people aren’t intimidated by threats of libel suits, which you can bet this guy is getting, and are going to look for new ways to practice CYA , maybe reducing the potential for this kind of thing to happen.

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Trisha Torrey
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