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Disability Bitch vs clever internet stuff

11th March 2009

Readers, this week my miserable woe-begotten bitchy world was visited by a chink of light. A small chink, but a chink nonetheless. You see, taking time out from reading the very tasteful hour-by-hour coverage of Jade Goody's illness, I discovered that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has come up with a genius plan!
A doctor reaching through the screen of a laptop with the end of a stethoscope
No, he hasn't saved us all from global recession and no, he won't be recommending that Disability Living Allowance increases by 25 per cent, but he has said that public services should be as cool as eBay and Amazon (that's me paraphrasing). Unlikely as it sounds, he wants us all to rate the performance of everything from councils to doctors using a sophisticated online feedback system similar to those employed by the popular web retail giants.

EBay-style feedback for services

Brown reckons this will lead to 'higher standards of transparency'. Cos reading people's comments on the web is always very useful, LoL, :-) ... It's all part of an 'information revolution', people. I bet you're thrilled.
Close-up of a woman's hand using a mouse next to her laptop
After thinking about this for a whole minute, I remembered that I HATE FEEDBACK and I can't see this system working at all. Ever. Don't get me wrong, I think eBay's great; you can buy Kerry Katona's breast implants on there.

There is a whole slew of these public websites planned, and from this summer, you'll be able to leave comments about your GP and local NHS services. Um. I see the good intension behind this, but can you imagine what's going to happen if people use these online tools to describe medical practitioners in the same way they use them to describe internet shopping transactions? Readers, anarchy will happen, that's what!

Let me just furnish you with a recent example of genuine feedback from my own eBay profile. One happy seller has said of me: A+ buyer, prompt payment, great transaction. How nice of them! See, I may be a Bitch, but I pay my dues on time.
A mouse cursor hovering over an online 'approved' button
Now, let's translate that piece of feedback into something you might leave for your doctor: A+ medic, fantastic drugs, pleasant examination. Thx.

Don't forget that the seller, in this case your doctor, gets to leave feedback in response. I imagine mine would go something like: Five minutes late again. Used deodorant. Hypochondriac. Still spastic. Drool not so bad today. Hell, who needs medical records when you've got this information to hand!

And then there are the times when transactions go badly. In those cases, most online auction sites include a 'Report seller to website' option for when you've been ripped off. I'll be looking forward to being able to threaten my GP with the handy 'Report doctor to the GMC' button, then.
A mouse cursor hovering over an online 'rejected' button
Meanwhile, if you switch over to a certain well known online bookshop, you will note that potential customers are given information on what other customers have done after viewing a particular item. Y'know, 60 per cent of customers bought this item, 10 per cent of them bought a different item, and 8 per cent purchased a different one again.

Translate this to medical services and who knows what we'll find out: "After visiting this doctor, 70 per cent of patients took aspirin, 15 per cent were prescribed Prozac, 5 per cent were referred for physiotherapy, 3 per cent of them dropped dead". It's not the kind of information I need to know, to be honest.

But, come on now, would you ever leave a bad comment about your GP or surgeon anyway? Criticise a waitress and she might gob in your food; God knows what might happen if you get on the wrong side of the person who looks after your health! I'd be far too scared. How useful it'll be remains to be seen.

I'm slightly concerned that Gordon Brown might get over-excited and expand the idea to social networking. Instead of adding friends to your personal profile, you will be able to add your GP, your orthopaedic consultant and your gynaecologist. Instead of being invited to events or to join groups, you'll be accepting referrals to chiropody, hydrotherapy and the NHS stop smoking service. It won't be long before you're able to play Scrabble with the lot of them. I'll be honest with you, readers, the main thing I'm left wondering is whether it's ethical to want to poke your consultant.

MillsWatch

Yet again, Heather is nowhere to be found in the tabloid press this week. I don't know what's going on, but I'm looking forward to her comeback. Have you seen Heather? Email me at the usual address or better yet, leave a comment below.

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I imagine several medical professionals are among my cohort of 1,141 friends, but none of them have offered me virtual treatment yet. If you'd like to join my merry throng then get clicking, add me as a friend ... and enjoy my hilarious updates through the week until next Thursday's column back here on BBC Ouch!

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