Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ask the Expert


Choosing the 'right database' to search is usually a matter of predicting "who knows the answer?"

Turning to an online source is not necessarily the fastest way to get an answer to a question. If there's an expert in the room, it's best just to ask the expert.

My usual inclination is to look online for an answer: What is it I want to know? And who might know the answer? Seems pretty straightforward. There are exceptions.

I've been having an issue with my eyesight lately. Different glasses haven't helped, so I scheduled a second opinion exam with a second ophthalmologist. The second diagnosis is that I need cataract surgery; the first diagnosis was that cataracts are developing but glasses should correct it for now. Now I have to make a decision that involves surgery since three different attempts at glasses did not help.

My question: "Who can I trust to do this surgery?" Unfortunately, the second opinion was a referral "out of network" and going that way without insurance coverage will be costly. If I can't get another referral, that leaves the doctor who thought the problem could be corrected with glasses and her associates.

Since I know all their names, I can look them up online. Who might know the answer? I figure there has to be a site that collects information and references on doctors. It's not hard to find, but that kind of information has a fee attached. Example: http://www.healthgrades.com/ There is some information (years since graduation, etc.) that is provided for free, but it doesn't really answer my question.

Searching the Web (e.g., Google) for the doctor's names returns where they practice and their specialties. It doesn't tell me anything about the quality of their work.

I tried the blogosphere, in case someone had a good or bad experience and decided to write about it. Nothing.

This is probably one of those times that going online isn't going to be much help. Fortunately I asked the second opinion doctor about the reputations of the other doctors and got some good information from personal experience about one of them. This is one of those times a person turns out to be the best database.

I suppose my next step, if I can't get a referral, is to ask for references from the doctor I select. Previous patients ought to know something, although I'll likely be given ones who had a positive experience.

Have you found information-for-hire from online databases helpful?
What else would you do?

1 comment:

Carl Heine said...

As I think more about it, this story also illustrates that when the stakes are high (eyesight), relying on just the information you find and vet online may not be sufficient.