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Who’s rating doctors on RateMDs? The invisible hand of ‘reputation management’

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.

Did that doctor pay to hide some bad reviews on RateMDs, the online physician rating system? You wouldn’t know.

Nor would you know if a doctor hired a reputation management service to boost the volume of positive reviews.

Online reputation management is an emerging industry with companies offering a variety of services to professionals who find themselves ranked on rating sites with no ability to opt out and with no control over the anonymous comments that can affect their reputation.

I feel this is akin to  cyberbullying .– Dr. Sukhbir  Singh, gynecologist, The Ottawa Hospital

The fact that those reputation management tools exist came as a shock to Dr. Sukhbir Singh, a gynecologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

Singh was already grappling with a negative review posted on his RateMDs page — a posting he discovered last weekend after an anonymous person claimed he had harmed them with a procedure that he doesn’t do.

He quickly responded on the site, advising the person to speak to the hospital about their concerns,

Then, just as suddenly, the posting vanished.

“This is crazy. None of this makes sense to me,” he said. “I feel this is akin to cyberbullying.”

In the middle of all of that a sales representative from RateMDs contacted him offering “reputation management tools” for a fee. The service includes the ability to keep up to three comments hidden from public view.

“That just made me sick to my stomach,” he said. “It doesn’t seem that in a public health-care system that I should be marketing myself, that I should be protecting my reputation and paying an independent private company to do that work.”

RateMDs offers doctors two special plans to enhance their presence on the site. The “Promoted” package costs $179 US per month and includes banner ads that will appear on competing doctor’s pages.

RateMDs online physician rating site sells advertising packages to doctors which allows them to pay a fee and hide some unfavourable comments. (Daniel Rofusz/CBC News)

And for $359 US per month the doctor can buy the “Promoted plus” option. Both packages allow doctors to hide up to three unfavourable comments — a feature called “Ratings Manager.”

But if a doctor stops paying, those unfavourable ratings will reappear.

“The reviews a provider designates with the Ratings Manager are not permanently removed and their numerical scores remain as part of the calculation of a provider’s overall rating,” said Chris Goodridge, chief investment officer of VerticalScope Inc., the parent company of Toronto-based RateMDs. (Torstar Corp, publisher of the Toronto Star, purchased a 56 per cent ownership in VerticalScope in 2015.)

“If a user unsubscribes from the Promoted or Promoted Plus plans, he or she will no longer receive the benefits associated with that subscription,” Goodridge said via email. 

“You’re held a little bit to ransom because the second you stop paying that $200 per month, those hidden reviews come back online,” said Ryan Forman, who runs a company called GlowingMDs that helps doctors manage their RateMDs profiles.

Reclaiming reputations

Forman’s company advertises its service to doctors with the line: “Reclaim your reputation.”

For a monthly fee of $229 plus HST the company provides a ratings template that doctors offer to patients to complete after an appointment.

“We then take all of those reviews, good or bad, from the doctor, and we then post it to RateMDs in effect on the doctor’s behalf.”

A reputation management company advertises service to physicians to boost positive patient testimonials on RateMDs online doctor rating site. (Daniel Rofusz/CBC News)

“We’re not able to remove any negative reviews but what we can do is post legitimate reviews that come through the doctor and hopefully improve their RateMDs profile,” said Forman.

Over at RateMDs, Goodridge said he knows that companies are selling reputation management services that target the online site.

“We’re certainly aware that there are a number of companies that support health care providers in soliciting patient reviews and in assisting with posting those reviews,” wrote Goodridge, adding that RateMDs has a system to disallow testimonials from suspicious sources.  

“RateMDs.com utilizes a variety of proprietary methods to identify and remove programmatically-generated reviews or reviews originating from suspicious sources.”

Software circumvents filters

But Forman said RateMDs filters have not prevented his company from posting multiple patient testimonials for a single doctor.

“We have had experience where they have picked up where we are putting more than one review for a doctor from the same location but the truth is our software circumvents that,” said Forman, adding he simply tweaks his software to get around the RateMDs filters.

So could anyone get the software and start posting whatever they wanted as many times as they wanted?

“Yes, I think if they were tech-savvy they probably could,” Forman said.” It’s not software that we developed, it’s software that’s out there on the internet so, yeah, they could definitely do it on their own.”

RateMDs is a free and open forum. That means anyone can say anything about any doctor. Just write a comment, click on each of the four rating stars and hit “Rate this doctor.” The site does not ask for a name, email address or phone number.

The doctor has no control over whether he or she appears on the site and there is no way to remove their page once it’s been posted.

A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that more than half of Canada’s physicians have been rated on the site.

“Overall, physicians are rated positively,” said study author Dr. Jessica Lui, a clinical investigator at the University of Toronto. “We did find there were differences in the likelihood of receiving a positive rating depending on what type of medicine you practiced.”

Misconduct decisions not visible 

But how useful are those ratings for patients especially if there are ways for doctors to boost their positive ratings?

And right now RateMDs does not post any warnings about physicians who have been disciplined by the medical regulatory colleges.

“If a provider has active or past disciplinary actions on their file they are not visible on their RateMDs.com profiles,” Goodridge wrote.

The remedies do not entirely correspond to the challenge.– Chantal Bernier, privacy and cybersecurity counsel, Dentons Canada LLP

The result? Doctors who have committed professional misconduct including sexual abuse of patients can still have glowing reviews on RateMDs.

“Providing transparency on disciplinary actions is a feature we continue to pursue on behalf of our audience,” wrote Goodridge. “At the moment, the limited availability of this data from the disparate colleges does not make this practical. RateMDs.com hopes to add this information in the near future by partnering with regulatory colleges if they are willing.”

There is also little transparency when it comes to anonymous accusations posted on RateMDs. Several doctors told CBC News about bad experiences including malicious postings from disgruntled employees.

And when patients do post negative reviews, the doctors pointed out that they can’t tell their side of the story without breaking patient confidentiality.

Forman started GlowingMDs after seeing some of those problems emerge in the medical clinics he manages.

“There’s definitely a need for the service,” Forman said. “Their hands are tied in terms of what they can say and do on RateMDs”

Thorny issues

Being rated without your consent can now happen to anyone. Doctors, lawyers, dog walkers — there is nothing preventing a company from setting up an online rating site and publishing anonymous reviews in any field — comments that will circulate on the internet forever.

“There is, I think, a very real issue that has, in a way, run away on us because we do not have the laws that specifically address these situations,” said Chantal Bernier, former federal privacy commissioner, now a privacy and cybersecurity counsel at Dentons Canada LLP.

“The thorny issues it presents is the reconciliation between the right to information, the obligation of accountability on one side and privacy and reputation on the other.”

Bernier said there is a need to examine the legislative tools that will be required to manage those competing ethical issues.

“Right now the remedies do not entirely correspond to the challenge.”

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Bill Gates: Third Shot May Be Needed to Combat Coronavirus Variants

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With more than 40 million Americans having received at least the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, a third dose may be needed to prevent the spread of new variants of the disease, Bill Gates told CBS News Tuesday.

Gates’ comments come amid growing concern that the current vaccines are not effective against the more contagious Brazilian and South African variants.

Pfizer and Moderna have stated that their vaccines are 95% and 99% effective, respectively, against the initial strain of COVID. However, some scientists have questioned those statements. Additionally, the World Health Organization and vaccine companies have conceded that the vaccines do not prevent people from being infected with COVID or from transmitting it, but are only effective at reducing symptoms.

Gates told CBS Evening News:

“The discussion now is do we just need to get a super high coverage of the current vaccine, or do we need a third dose that’s just the same, or do we need a modified vaccine?”

U.S. vaccine companies are looking at making modifications, which Gates refers to as “tuning.”

People who have had two shots may need to get a third shot and people who have not yet been vaccinated would need the modified vaccine, explained Gates. When asked whether the coronavirus vaccine would be similar to the flu vaccine, which requires yearly boosters, Gates couldn’t rule that out. Until the virus is eradicated from all humans, Gates said, additional shots may be needed in the future.

AstraZeneca in particular has a challenge with the variant,” Gates explained. “And the other two, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, are slightly less effective, but still effective enough that we absolutely should get them out as fast as we can while we study this idea of tuning the vaccine.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the studies being conducted in Brazil and South Africa, CBS News said. The foundation has also invested in the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and the Novavax vaccines, which are being tested against new variants. Once the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved, the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative or GAVI, founded by Gates, will distribute it globally.

“Gates continues to move the goalposts,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chairman and chief legal counsel of Children’s Health Defense. “Meanwhile the strategies he and others have promoted are obliterating the global economy, demolishing the middle class, making the rich richer and censoring vaccine safety advocates, like me.”

Kennedy said that the exclusive focus on vaccines has prevented the kind of progress required to actually address and recover from the pandemic:

“From the pandemic’s outset, clear-headed people familiar with the challenges inherent in the vaccine model have understood that the path out of crisis would require multiple steps. Those steps would need to include the development and/or identification of therapeutic drugs, the sharing of information among doctors to hone improved treatment models that reduce infection mortality rates below those for flu, and the kind of broad-spectrum long-term herd immunity that protects against mutant strains and that only derives from natural infection.”

Instead, Gates and vaccine makers are proposing a lifetime of boosters, supporting insufficient testing to determine safety and failing to address the inadequate monitoring of vaccine injuries, Kennedy said.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.

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Young nurse suffers from hemorrhage and brain swelling after second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

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(Natural News) A 28-year-old healthcare worker from the Swedish American Hospital, in Beloit, Wisconsin was recently admitted to the ICU just five days after receiving a second dose of Pfizer’s experimental mRNA vaccine. The previously healthy young woman was pronounced brain dead after cerebral angiography confirmed a severe hemorrhage stroke in her brain stem.

Her family members confirmed that she was “breaking out in rashes” after the vaccine. She also suffered from sudden migraine headaches, and got “sick” after taking the second dose of the vaccine. At the very end, she lost the ability to speak and went unconscious. The migraines, nausea, and loss of speech were all symptoms of a brain bleed and brain swelling, something her family did not understand at the time, and something nobody would expect after vaccination.

While on life support, neurologists used angiography to image the damage inside the brain. They found a subarachnoid hemorrhage, whereas a bulging blood vessel burst in the brain, bleeding out in the space between the brain and the tissue covering the brain. The ensuing swelling cut off oxygen to the brain and caused brain death. On February 10, 2021, Sarah reportedly had “no brain activity.” Some of the woman’s organs are now being procured, so they can be donated to other people around the world.

Doctors warn FDA about COVID vaccines causing autoimmune attacks in the heart and brain

Experimental COVID-19 vaccines may cause inflammation along the cardiovascular system, leading to heart attack and/or stroke. This serious issue was brought forth to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by Dr. J. Patrick Whelan, M.D., Ph.D. and further confirmed by cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. The two doctors warned that a recently-infected patient who is subject to COVID-19 vaccination is likely to suffer from autoimmune attacks along the ACE-2 receptors present in the heart, and in the microvasculature of the brain, liver and kidney. If viral antigens are present in the tissues of recipients at the time of vaccination, the vaccine-augmented immune response will turn the immune system against those tissues, causing inflammation that can lead to blood clot formation.

This severe adverse event is likely cause of death for the elderly who are vaccinated despite recently being infected. There is no adequate screening process to ensure that this autoimmune attack doesn’t occur. The elderly are not the only people vulnerable to vaccine injury and death. Pfizer’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine could be the main cause behind the sudden death of Sarah Sickles, a 28-year-old nurse from Wisconsin. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System has captured five permanent disabilities in Wisconsin, 58 ER visits, and eleven deaths in just one month. This is the first case in Wisconsin of someone under 44 years of age suffering from severe COVID-19 vaccine side effects and death. There are now more than 1,170 deaths recorded in the U.S. related to the experimental mRNA vaccines, a reality that the FDA and CDC continue to ignore.

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Powering hypersonic weapons: US armed forces eyeing dangerous 5G tech

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(Natural News) Much of the conversation surrounding the benefits of 5G is geared toward the consumer side of the technology. People will be able to download videos at lightning speed and will be more connected than ever, proponents claim, although there are serious questions regarding its safety. However, some of the most important 5G applications are not civil at all – the technology will be used extensively in the military domain.

Some of its military uses are outlined in the Defense Applications of 5G Network Technology report, which was published by the Defense Science Board. This federal committee gives scientific advice to the Pentagon. Their report states: “The emergence of 5G technology, now commercially available, offers the Department of Defense the opportunity to take advantage, at minimal cost, of the benefits of this system for its own operational requirements.”

The 5G commercial network that is being built by private companies right now can be used by the American military for a much lower cost than if the network had been set up exclusively for military purposes.

Military experts expect the 5G system to play a pivotal role in using hypersonic weapons. For example, it can be used for new missiles that bear nuclear warheads and travel at speeds superior to Mach 5. These hypersonic weapons, which travel at five times the speed of sound and move a mile per second, will be flying at high altitudes on unpredictable flight paths, making them as hard to guide as they will be to intercept.

Huge quantities of data need to be gathered and transmitted in a very short period in order to maneuver these warheads on variable trajectories and allow them to change direction in milliseconds to avoid interceptor missiles.

5G for defense

This type of technology is also needed to activate defenses should we be attacked by a weapon of this type; 5G automatic systems could theoretically handle decisions that humans won’t have enough time to make on their own. Military bases and even cities will have less than a minute to react to incoming hypersonic missiles, and 5G will make it easier to process real time data on trajectories for decision-making.

There are also important uses of this technology in combat. 5G’s ability to simultaneously link millions of transceivers will undoubtedly facilitate communication among military personnel and allow them to transmit photos, maps and other vital information about operations in progress at dizzying speeds to improve situational awareness.

The military can also take advantage of the high-frequency and short-wavelength millimeter wave spectrum used by 5G. Its short range means that it is well suited for smart military bases and command posts because the signal will not propagate too far, making it less likely that enemies will be able to detect it.

When it comes to special forces and secret services, the benefits of 5G are numerous. Its speed and connectivity will allow espionage systems to reach unprecedented levels of efficiency. It will also make drones more dangerous by allowing them to identify and target people using facial recognition and other methods.

Like all technology, 5G will also make us highly vulnerable. The network itself could become an attractive target for cyber-attacks and other acts of war being carried out with cutting-edge weaponry. In fact, the 5G network is already viewed as critical infrastructure and is being carefully protected before it is even fully built.

While the focus on 5G’s dangers to human health and the environment is absolutely warranted, it is also important not to lose sight of the military implications of 5G. After all, it is not just the United States that is developing this technology for military purposes; our enemies, like China and other countries, are also making great strides in this realm.

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