Recently in Wisdom of the crowds Category

Wisdom of the crowds commenting on troubled health news stories

Yesterday we commented on a hospital chaplain/blogger who critiqued a troublesome health news story.

Today we bring you the comment of a reader (who happens to have had back pain for a long time) who questions the balance and integrity of a New Jersey news website story that wrote about cutbacks in payments for medical imaging.

See it at:

Clergyman-blogger unleashes criticism of CNN for disease-mongering story

I love it when I see smart people blogging their critiques of health care news coverage. So I say "Hallelujah" in response to a hospital-chaplain-blogger's rant about a news story run by CNN and that made his skin crawl.

Health care town hall forum has become house of horrors


We can't talk to each other any more. Less than a month ago, I blogged about a depressing town hall forum on health care hosted by Congresswoman Betty McCollum.

Now a story on suggests that what I observed in St. Paul has been seen all over the country. Excerpt:

Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety -- welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.

On the eve of the August recess, members are reporting meetings that have gone terribly awry, marked by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior. In at least one case, a congressman has stopped holding town hall events because the situation has spiraled so far out of control.

I went to a local town hall forum on health care hosted by my local congresswoman Betty McCollum last week.

Overall, it was a disappointing and depressing event with two main camps of citizens: those who were in favor of a single-payer health care system and those who loudly opposed that idea as "socialism."

In fact, Congresswoman McCollum had to abruptly end the session when it devolved into an ugly shouting match - vocal members of both camps shouting at her in a discourteous and - frankly - disgusting manner.

Between those two camps were a few - but only a few - moderate voices. One was a 31-year old woman named Ellie Church. She told the attendees she was born in 1978 10 weeks premature.

She summarized her talk in a followup email to me:

"I weighed 3 pounds and had an APGAR score of 0. My mom went into early labor and they tried for 2 days to stop it.

The letter my dad received from his insurance company said that although he had coverage, they were not going to cover my care because he hadn't added me as a dependant to his insurance plan...because I was born 10 weeks early. He fought them and eventually they did agree to cover me."

But as a result of this experience, she says she is one of the only people who can truly say that she has been fighting health insurance companies for EVERY DAY OF HER LIFE. She continued:

"I prefer a single-payer health care system, but I would be happy with affordable, accessible health care that is administratively simple and available to everyone. I am especially adamant that insurance companies be unable to deny coverage or charge higher premiums for pre-existing conditions or lifestyle choices such as smoking or obesity, since they are most often the people who need access to good health care the most. I'm a cancer-survivor, and have been denied coverage by insurance companies more times than I can count because of it. Insurance has also refused to cover the recommended, evidence-based follow-up screenings that I'm supposed to have for the rest of my life. They are expensive doctor visits, but they're necessary to make sure that any recurrence of cancer or other late effects are caught early. I've spent countless hours writing letters and speaking on the phone with insurance companies to get them to cover these appointments. Many people who are sick don't have the time and resources to do that, so they don't, and the insurance company succeeds in denying their claim."

We need to be sure that voices and stories like Ellie's aren't lost in the cacophony of rhetoric that may dominate the debate over health care reform.

At a meeting of health bloggers at Consumer Reports in New York last week, there was a lively discussion that could have gone on for hours on the pros and cons of enabling "the wisdom of the crowd" to surface on health-related websites including blogs. In a very simplistic summary, those who promote such discussion say it democratizes the web and engages users in a "community" Those who have concerns are usually concerned about unmoderated discussions allowing quackery and downright harmful advice and information to be posted and remain online.

Consumer Reports' medical adviser Orly Avitzur, MD, mentioned one parallel concern: about the undue credibility that might be given to claims appearing on some physicians' websites.

Media Mill Video

The "wisdom of the crowds" is a complex topic, with many nuances.

Since I'm a journalist - from a traditional journalism background - the one area that I know gives me trouble is the news website that posts a story and user comments which are not moderated all the time. I have blogged about such a troublesome example I found in the New York Times. It's not hard to find many others.

(Please note: the video above is the first I've ever posted on this blog - after more than 4 years and more than 1,000 postings. It is an experiment. Let me know if you think such video clips are a good addition. There may be another tomorrow.)

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Wisdom of the crowds category.

Shared decision-making is the previous category.

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