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Lesley Stahl at BlogHer: False Information Is Giving Media (and Healthcare) A Bad Name

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I attended a fantastic conference hosted by BlogHer yesterday. It’s a strange experience, entering a convention hall filled with 98% women. My ears were ringing with an unfamiliar “crowd noise” pitch – instead of the usual rumbling that one expects on entering a ballroom full of people, I noticed the same volume of noise, but a few octaves higher. I suppose it was the sound of estrogen.

The co-founders of BlogHer, Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page, and Jory Des Jardins are a media tour de force. Within a span of 3 years they have built the largest and arguably the most influential group of women bloggers on the Internet. BlogHer drives an astounding 4 billion page views per year and has 16 million unique visitors per year. 

The closing panel discussion was riveting. Lesley Stahl described the decline of television journalism, explaining that the line between pundits and journalists had been blurred beyond recognition.

Anyone on television is considered part of ‘mainstream media.’ There is no distinction made between opinion and fact. That’s why the media has lost trust in the eyes of Americans. Pundits don’t necessarily care about accuracy, and so traditional journalists (who spend a good deal of their time fact checking) are lumped in with them. I get tarred too.


Carol Jenkins, President of the Women’s Media Center, explained,

Getting facts checked takes time. It’s incredibly important for the media to act responsibly, because a rumor that you start in good faith can have devastating consequences.

Lesley Stahl predicts that it will take 2 more presidential cycles to sort out the “wild west” Internet information boom. She acknowledged that more information can be better – but false information and rumor mongering can crowd out the valuable content. She believes that Internet users will become more discerning over time, and that the current “anything goes” environment will give way to a more organized hierarchy where journalistic integrity will rise like cream to the top of this community-powered mix.

As I listened to Lesley, I realized that the same “blurring” phenomenon is happening in healthcare. I have been deeply concerned about the misinformation that my patients receive on the Internet, and quite astonished that celebrities like Jenny McCarthy can be more influential in parents’ healthcare decision-making than their own doctors. When it comes to health matters, it is incredibly important for patients to get their information from a trusted source. Getting political facts straight is one thing (and kudos to the journalists who maintain their integrity in the midst of the pundit bonanza), but making life and death decisions is entirely another.

I’ve created a list of online health information sources that I trust. It is not exhaustive, but it’s a start. As you search for health information to care for yourself or your loved one – please remember the cardinal rule of good journalism: consider the source.

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High five to my nurse blogger friends who hung out with me at the conference: Mother Jones, RN; PixelRN; and Pam Meredith, RN.

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Other contacts of note:

Veronica Noone – she lost 70 pounds through Weight Watchers and now teaches others how to follow suit.

Kristen King – geek lab lady extraordinaire and SEO smartie

Line Storgaard-Conley – Safe Kids Worldwide

Andrea Meyers - Andrea’s Recipes (for healthy eating)


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One Response to “Lesley Stahl at BlogHer: False Information Is Giving Media (and Healthcare) A Bad Name”

  1. Rob Halper says:

    Val,
    Great looking site! How was Health 2.0?

    Rob

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Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

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Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

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