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NOVEMBER 8, 2009 9:59AM

Huffington Post Health Watch: Dr. Dean Ornish's Infomercial

Rate: 7 Flag

Dr. Dean Ornish seems to be getting too much inspiration from other Huffington Post Living Section bloggers, who appear on the site when they need to promote themselves and their friends.  

 In what can be described as nothing other than an informercial, Ornish, the Post's Medical Editor, posted "Sharecare Builds a Web 3.0 Bridge to Better Health."  In it, Ornish basically talks up a venture that he seems to believe is a cutting edge idea:   a website that offers health advice and information to patients.

 You can read the ad if you have the stomach for such blatant press self-promotion.  Basically, Ornish describes joining forces with the likes of Oprah's Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra to provide expert advice. In addition:

"Sharecare will include many points of view from people who have similar interests, concerns, and experiences. Peer to peer social networking functions will allow users to talk with one another about common issues, problems and successes within the context of expert content. Being able to communicate directly with others who have gone through the experience of illness not only gives different perspectives but also provides a level of compassion, empathy, intimacy, and shared strength that is itself healing."

 Of course, Ornish doesn't exactly describe what he means by "web 3.0." Does he mean social networking and support groups? That's web 1.0-2.0.  Revolution Health, founded by former AOL head Steve Case, has been at it for years now.   

 It's not clear how anybody--whether it be readers, other HuffPo editors, or those who pay for legitimate advertising on the site--can find Ornish's post credible or newsworthy.  If anybody at the Post took their journalistic responsibilities seriously, or cared about the information they were peddling to patients looking for serious health answers, then Ornish would probably have been reprimanded for abusing his authority the minute he posted this.  

"No one has a monopoly on truth," Ornish ads.

Indeed.  So here's the truth for Arianna and company:  Ornish's post is a vacuous-self-congratulatory-cliche-littered-plug, one that promotes a venture based on a recycled idea.

The only thing missing is where to mail your check (or does "web 3.0" use PayPal?) 


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Most less common chronic ailments have websites/user groups where people share their experience. They existed before the web in listserv format.

The other issue is getting crackpots with crackpot ideas on this sort of site. In general, they have to be policed in some way to prevent kooks selling their snake oil from spamming the site.
Medical adverblogging when you are getting paid for real info is clearly bad form. I'm not sure if it is unethical or not.
Sorry, this is not related to this post, but this is my first visit to your blog, and I laughed so hard at the send-up of the Starbucks logo I thought I'd faint . . . .
I'm just a patient not a practitioner, but I think nothing beats a good primary care physician with whom you can talk, get examinations, medical advice, medications and referrals. I think we Americans need to start with a good base primary care physician and go from there. I find looking on line to web MD and all these other sites just exacerbates my fears and gives me cobbled information. I'm not a doctor, I'm a writer! I like to leave medicine to you guys. On the other hand, no problem with researching your problems or conditions, as long as you check this research with a board certified physician whom you trust! A patient's take.
Anyone who writes something that is read by public can be accused of self-promotion. So, beefing about that in an article could raise questions about you. For instance what do you write for? There are ideas offered that are similar but often not the same. Perhaps if you read Ornish’s post with a cool mind you might come to that conclusion.
Let me give you an example. In the eighties I wrote a paper and it was in the press when I came to the US to give a few talks. I gave a talk also on that paper at a school. Someone heard the work described over the phone and called me to say that one of his students was working on exactly the same thing. Ordinarily I would say "Let's write a joint paper" but I had proofread the paper before I left Britain, so I could not do a thing.
Then the oddest thing happened, the fellow submitted a paper similar to mine joint with his student, and it appeared three years after the publication of my paper, in a top notch journal. Being the honorable man that he is, he also mentioned the duplication with my paper. It was a little unsettling to see a near duplicate of my work, but frankly I could not do a thing.
Now with hindsight that “duplication” was the best thing that happened to my paper. Now people read that paper and know about mine, which would have gone unnoticed being in a somewhat obscure journal and being written by a “Muhammad something”. Now let me be fair. There were a few things that I had emphasized and there were some things that they emphasized. So between the two papers quite some ground was covered. The point is, things cannot be exact replicas of each other if they have been proposed or written by different knowledgeable persons.
Finally, as someone has already remarked I would say “If you are sick go to your primary physician.” Frankly, I regard talking about one’s health problems over the internet akin to airing one’s dirty laundry. Oh and picking statements from an article and spanking them is never a good idea for instance read “"No one has a monopoly on truth," Ornish ads.” And ask, “Is that what I meant?” From what I know the same truth expressed by different people can darn well have different effects.
Huzzah, Rahul!

So good to see a simple deflation of this hooey. Web 3.0, let's see, that would be flying cars driven by shamans, and magical pixie vapor made of organic ethernet cables and dandelion fluff, guaranteed to fix gout, vaccinitis, and brainflab, right?
Sharecare is plowing the same ground that WebMD has been cultivating for the past four years now, so there's no news here; just another example of internet capitalism.

All medical opinions are precisely that: opinions. Medicine is both an art and an science; the art's in the diagnosis but the science is in the treatment.

Medical opinions only have value when the practitioner offering the opinions stands behind the opinion by putting his or her medical license at stake.

Practitioners who consistently make bad diagnoses or offer ineffective treatment options are eventually identified and corrected or , in extreme cases, barred from practice. This, however, doesn't prevent bad doctors from continuing to provide bad service. It happens all the time, in every country, under every conceivable care system. People make mistakes. Get used to it.

The problems become exacerbated when the people who are making the mistakes make them from a third party web site where no one is responsible to anyone, and no one is in charge of evaluating the facts of the matters.

The internet is a like an unjuried medical journal that prints every article it receives: while some good information may lurk there, contradictions abound, and the caveat emptor is best advice for anyone seeking diagnosis or treatment there.

You get what you pay for: free advice is worthless.
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I think we Americans need to start with a good base primary care physician and go from there. I find looking on line to web MD and all these other sites just exacerbates my fears and gives me cobbled information. I'm just a patient not a practitioner, but I think nothing beats a good primary care physician with whom you can talk, get examinations, medical advice, medications and referrals. - bergerac