Let’s talk about transparency in healthcare

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POWERPUFF PATIENTS: Doctors do not quite yet embrace patient reviews but patients are looking for them.

NO PRINTER JUST FAX: There exist many uncomfortable truths in the healthcare industry — like discrimination against minority groups. But before we can fix them, they need to be made known.

PICTURE OF THE DAY: Transparency about healthcare procedures — including medical errors — could help save lives.


The Big Idea:
Doctors do not quite yet embrace patient reviews but patients are looking for them.

How objective are you when reviewing your doctor? 

93% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase. Reviews help brands and service providers understand what people think about them and how they can improve. 

But, really, why are reviews SO important? 

Are you more likely to book an unreviewed Airbnb or one with a ton of 5-star reviews? Would you have a greater interest in watching movies with a higher or lower Rotten Tomato score? Are you more enticed to visit a restaurant with heaps of Yelp reviews than one without? 

The Internet gives every user a chance to value-add to each other’s experience by sharing important first-hand information we know. That is a lot of power in your hands!

Unfortunately, the healthcare industry hasn’t really caught on. In Singapore, there are strict regulations governing the placement and use of patient reviews. The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) discourages doctors from getting patient testimonials because of their subjectivity and inability to represent the doctor’s practice accurately.

Patient reviews are the new word of mouth.

These fears are not entirely unfounded. A review of the clinic’s decor as opposed to the doctor’s practice, for example, may quite well be missing the point.

But what about the need for transparency? Taking away patient reviews altogether solves one issue — but creates another.

When we rely exclusively on word-of-mouth recommendations, we miss out on getting the right doctor. And mind you — there are over 10,000 doctors in Singapore! Unlike a restaurant, it is not possible to try em’ all to get the right doctor for treatment. 

Patients are looking for real reviews to help guide their healthcare journey.

No matter where you stand on patient reviews, the one thing we must acknowledge is people are already looking for them. And why wouldn’t they be? 

In today’s digital age, there is no escaping judgement by online reputation. People want to be able to compare — and will create their own space to do so. 

Patients deserve to make informed choices. The healthcare industry is shifting — and doctors must embrace this move to give patients more autonomy in the health decisions they make.


5 facts to spice up your life:

1️⃣  Saving the coin: This survey found that more than half of the respondents who compared healthcare prices before getting care think they saved money doing so.

2️⃣ Where art thou transparency? A healthcare tech startup is getting cancelled for hosting patient reviews on their platform.

3️⃣ Regulators are expected to be upfront about any effects of the UK’s decision to extend the time gap between the first and second shot of the Covid-19 vaccine.

4️⃣ A new year’s gift: Starting 1st Jan, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires hospitals to publish the prices they negotiate with insurers for medical procedures.

5️⃣ Wait and see: Some healthcare workers in Mumbai are putting off getting the vaccine until the government is more transparent about its efficacy rates and side effects.


The Big Idea:
There exist many uncomfortable truths in the healthcare industry — like discrimination against minority groups. But before we can fix them, they need to be made known.

All patients have to be treated equally. But the reality is that some are more equal than others.

In 2020, a worrying trend emerged: People of racial minority groups were contracting Covid-19 more than white people — and no one was really sure why. 

With vaccinations rolling out, hopes for a post-pandemic world are growing. Yet, numbers in the United States suggest fewer black and Hispanic people are receiving Covid-19 vaccines than white people.

This disparity did not make a whole lot of sense, especially when black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are nearly twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, after controlling for age and other sociodemographic factors.

Racist healthcare decisions are made every day, even by folks who swear that they are far from being racist.

A study that looked into racial discrimination in the healthcare system suggests that communities of colour in the U.S. have lower access to healthcare because of high unemployment rates and lacking health insurance benefits.

Research has also found that even people who didn’t believe they were prejudiced would make healthcare allocation decisions that hurt black people. That’s right, you can be racist without knowing.

Facts will help us enhance the provision of healthcare. Period.

Racism exists. The healthcare industry is not exempt — rather, it is complicit when it fails to weed out discriminating practices.

Facts are our first step to fixing the issue. We needed to know that communities of colour are receiving disproportionately fewer vaccines to work on figuring why, and how to help.

There are many other groups of people in the world that are still not receiving the healthcare they require. And knowing brings us to fight it — so rally on to make transparent and public health data available today and in the future.


Image of (from left to right) saline, colourless chlorhexidine, and coloured chlorhexidine. By patientsafe.

The Big Idea:
Transparency about healthcare procedures — including medical errors — could help save lives.

How three identical looking solutions killed a woman. Yikes.

In 2004, Mary L. McClinton was being treated for a brain aneurysm at Virginia Mason Hospital at Seattle when she was wrongly injected with chlorhexidine, an antiseptic.

She was supposed to receive a contrast dye — an identical-looking clear solution that was in the same room.

This mistake caused her life.

What happens after an error like that? Well, the hospital swiftly disclosed the news to her family and to the public.

In a rare show of medical transparency, they admitted a grave mistake that took a life.

Being transparent starts from within.

Today, Virginia Mason remembers Mrs McClinton and the folly with the Mary L. McClinton Patient Safety Award.

A distinguished accolade at the hospital, the award recognises team efforts to prioritise patient safety through innovation. 

Of course, none of this feel-good fluff could take away from the tragedy that happened in the first place.

But CEO Gary Kaplan affirms that the only way the hospital and the industry can grow is to start being transparent and accountable internally.

Not the first or last death by medical error

According to a Johns Hopkins study, an approximated 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year due to medical error.

And a month after Mrs McClinton’s death, Virginia Mason learned that a similar case had happened at another hospital two years prior — but failed to be transparent about it.

If the mistake was confessed and the lesson was learned earlier, Mrs McClinton — and maybe hundreds or thousands of other lives — could have been saved.


Tiffany is a writer who reads Lorde’s lyrics and calls it practice. She likes her pills served with croffles (that’s a croissant waffle, for the unsophisticated.)