In â€œSurgery 2.0,â€ patients and doctors turn to complete idiots to solve complex medical problems
When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wrote a blog post about his colonoscopy and the gas-related issues that ensued, the world held its nose and ran for cover. Dr. Clayton Dirtenhoffer, however, smelled a revolution.
â€œSurgery 2.0,â€ he explains, from his office in downtown Green Lake. â€œis the logical next step in our field. We can harness the power of the web to build a new medical community, one that helps patients, keeps costs down and doesn’t ‘forget’ to invite me to its professional association’s holiday party each year.â€
In short, Surgery 2.0 lets anyone with a web connection participate in treating medical patients, from fevers and colds to â€“ yes, we’ll say it â€“ brain surgery. Rather than simply going to a doctor’s office and getting treatment from a clinician, patients can now post comments, photos or videos, create podcasts or start discussion threads.
Response to this new style of treatment â€“ among the web set, anyway â€“ can be summed up in two words: love… and â€œhuh?â€ â€œIt’s amazing… I feel so much better now,â€ says Noelle Durgin of Appleton, who sought treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome at Dr. Dirtenhoffer. â€œMy wrists still hurt like hell, but I found this really funny episode of ‘Will It Curdle?’ on YouTube! This is treatment that understands my generation.â€
Critics â€“ and there are plenty – decry Surgery 2.0 as buzzword-heavy quackery that inexplicably substitutes hypertext for Hippocrates. Ted Buzzell, 81, found an odd lump on his neck last month, which seemed like a recurrence of the skin cancer he first saw fifteen years ago. When he went to the Surgery 2.0 clinic down the block, however, the web-based community inexplicably opted against a biopsy. â€œInstead,â€ says Buzzell, â€œI get a bunch of naked hippies posting photos of their ‘Bring the Troops Home Nude’ rally on my medical chart. Thanks a f___ing lot.â€ Others point to the now-infamous Avis Sutliff case, in which â€œcitizen dentistsâ€ turned a routine cleaning into breast enhancement and male enhancement surgery. (Sutliff attempted to make the best of the situation with a pay-to-view â€œCavities and Bazoombasâ€ site, but was unsuccessful.)
Dirtenhoffer defenders say these critics are simply stuck in an outdated, â€œSurgery 1.0â€ way of thinking. The Great Lonnie, a Seattle-based blogger who flunked out of six med schools before becoming an enthusiastic early adopter of Surgery 2.0, asks â€œwhy does medicine have to mean helping a sick person get healthy? Why shouldn’t medicine be about building online communities? This is 2007, after all.â€ When asked why random internet users should have as much or more say in health decisions than trained medical practitioners or the patients themselves, Dirtenhoffer says â€œyou’re missing the point. This is a revolution,â€ before hitting a button on his desk which opens a trap door under his chair and scuttles him to a hidden room elsewhere in the building.
Surgery 2.0 has plenty of people talking â€“ even anti-HMO firebrands in Congress are asking if user-generated medicine could counterbalance Big Pharma – but there are doubts about its staying power. Says Dave Jay, who runs the web analysis blog â€œDave J. on Dave Jay,â€ â€œThe question people are asking is, will this revamp the world of medicine, like Dr. Dirtenhoffer and his followers predict? Or will this just turn into a glorified bulletin board for porn addicts and sci-fi nerds like the rest of the web?â€ Tag that question as unanswered, for now.