Are the mainstream media starting to get it?

A few weeks ago, I wrote kind of a throwaway post about whether if it’s proven to be true that the death of hip-hop star Kanye West’s mother, English professor Donda West, was due to a medical error, if the general public would start paying more attention to the issue of patient safety. The post received two comments, one saying it was an interesting question and another suggesting that the real wake-up call for the public should have been the death of sportswriter Dick Schaap in 2002.

Then I read an entry on Jane Sarasohn-Kahn’s Health Populi blog, dated a week after my post, that mentioned not only West’s death, but a dosing error that affected two children of actor Dennis Quaid, and said the news “focuses this health care paparazzi’s lens squarely on the role of information technology in health care.” (Jane, you’re a great writer, but n.b., a single member of the group collectively known as “paparazzi” is a “paparazzo.” I’m not sure if there are separate masculine/feminine versions. Anyone care to assist my half-hearted attempt at being pedantic?)

In the West case, Sarasohn-Kahn links to piece by syndicated columnist Susan Estrich calling for greater transparency in health information, particularly when it comes to doctor quality. So apparently someone was paying attention.

Meanwhile, right there above the nameplate at the top of the front page of Sunday’s Chicago Tribune was a teaser that asked “Is your doctor Internet savvy?” As it turns out—surprise—many are not. The story, by health and fitness reporter/columnist Julie Deardorff, whom I do not know, does a good job spelling out the issues. “Unlike the banking, restaurant and travel industries, the medical profession has been slow to embrace the Internet’s potential customer service benefits,” the story says.

Deardorff also quotes some people I’ve used as sources before, including Dr. Ed Fotsch of Medem and Forrester Research analyst Elizabeth Boehm.

The more stories like this that get teased on the front page of a major big-city newspaper’s Sunday edition, the more the general public figures out that the solution to the nation’s healthcare crisis is a lot more complicated than just throwing more money at the existing system, mandating insurance coverage or making Wall Street happy by passing along insurance costs to employers.