It’s sometimes hard for me to believe it’s been almost 20 years since I completed my residency in emergency medicine. It isn’t something that I dwell on, but since joining K Health last year, it is something that I have reflected on more than I ever did previously. The reason is fairly simple: practicing medicine hasn’t gotten much easier, more efficient, or less bureaucratic in the last 20 years, while much of the rest of the world has. I do more tests, not less, and more of those tests are negative. I do more paperwork, not less. And while I have access to much more information, it is very difficult to tell if the information is good and whether or not it is relevant and current.
I can’t imagine what it is like for a non-medical person. The health care system is opaque, random and confusing for me, and I’ve been immersed in this world my entire professional life. Overwhelming amounts of information are available to anyone who wants to read it; however, it is often so egregiously wrong or misleading that it does far more harm than good. Everyday, without fail, I see several people who have convinced themselves, with the aid of Dr Google or Web MD or insert-medical-site, that they have a medical condition which is not only a) invariably awful but also b) medically impossible and c) laughably inaccurate. However, once a person believes they have something terrible, it can be hard to reassure them that they don’t need a test or a surgery. Often they print out their terrible “diagnosis,” and show me that only this series of tests can rule this condition out, and could we please do them right now? (It is often 3am when this happens. Everything is scarier at 3am, including online medical information.) Which, again, I understand, because searching for information online is the standard now. While people shouldn’t always believe what they read from a source they don’t know, it is very hard to know where to get good information.
The reason I joined K Health is pretty straightforward: I want to help develop a system which can eliminate the nonsense that is currently the only information available online for consumers.
I don’t want you to read that you have ‘insert dreaded, invariably painful or fatal disease’ after being sick for 4 hours. If you are sick, I want you to have access to current, up to date, relevant information on your symptoms, and I want that information to come from people just like you who have already been through what you are suffering. Almost without fail, someone else has had your symptoms, in fact statistically, tens of thousands of people have had your symptoms just in the past few years. (Occasionally, a person will make a spectacularly interesting decision that may never have been tried, such as injecting maple syrup into a vein or trying to remove excess hair with Drano. But I digress.) K can find experiences like yours, evaluate them, and tell you what to expect from people who are literally just like you.
A doctor in a busy ER or clinic will see a lot of people and a lot of conditions over twenty years. It is a point of (possibly misplaced) pride that I can often see a patient and say that I have seen this before. However, what K can do is on a different scale. K can see thousands of cases of a given condition and evaluate how the symptoms interact, how gender and age may factor in, as well as many other variables. She can tell you not only what the most likely medical diagnosis is but also what medications were used to treat it, what tests were ordered, and what symptoms to look for. No doctor in ten lifetimes can see as many cases as K saw in her first day. The information is there, it is impartial, and it is now available for free to anyone who cares to enter their symptoms and investigate their health.