August 28, 2010


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"many a doctor is out of sync with patients and as a consequence often does them a disservice or makes preventable medical mistakes." — Canadian Medical Association Journal, Aug 23, 2010

Medical doctors are among the most highly trained professionals but they make mistakes. You probably know this from your own experience. Two years ago, identifying and treating a basic wart took six separate doctors.

We learn to print and write as children but doctors' bad handwriting kills over  7,000 a year. You'd think that injecting a needle would be a basic skill yet the CDC found that unsafe injection practices may have harmed over 125,000 patients since 1999. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that medical errors cause 250,000 deaths in the US each year — the third leading cause of death.

Statistics don't tell the whole story but make great sound bites. For our purposes, let's consider the claims plausible or possible. Doctors don't intend to hurt you, yet that happens despite their high level of skill.

When you need help, would you rather deal with a novice instead? In many parts of your life, you do.

Look Around

You'll find mistakes abound when you look elsewhere too. That's not much consolation. At least there are tough requirements to become a professional like a doctor, lawyer, engineer and accountant. The barriers limit entry and make the designations valuable. That's a consequence of what Seth Godin calls The Dip.

What if the barriers were very low? Almost nonexistent? Welcome to the financial world. The ability to sell means often more than formal training or demonstrated ability.

Earlier this week, an investment advisor from a major bank knocked on our door. Is this  the return of the door-to-door salesman?  In the world of do-not-call lists and do-not-spam, door-to-door solicitation and junk mail are loopholes for interruptions. Lucky us.

When I'm interrupted, I look up the offenders. Try this yourself. Their business cards rarely show designations — not even a university degree. They rarely show up with a web search. If they have a profile on LinkedIn, don't expect much detail or (m)any testimonials. Maybe they have wonderful experience, but where's the proof?  In a world of abundance, you've got lots of choice.

New doctors may cause a 6% increase in death rates among hospital patients. Couldn't a new or untrained advisor wreak havoc too? Regardless, count on paying roughly what the experts charge.

Why Education Matters

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
— Albert Einstein

School teaches us to think.Completing school takes discipline. Many drop out physically or mentally before graduation.

Yes, experts make mistakes too. When doctors admit theirs, they face fewer malpractice suits. The less competent in any field may not even know they messed up.

Low Barriers

Back in 2000, the last time we bought a Toyota, the sales manager said new salespeople would have university degrees. Imagine a world where selling cars takes more formal education than selling investments or insurance. Scary.

A framed degree on the wall may not prove much … except that the recipient had enough discipline, intelligence and determination to succeed. Maybe that matters to you.

Would you believe that 23% of patients had an adverse event after discharge? That's with well-trained medical doctors. What happens with your financial doctors?


Podcast Episode 81 (4:38)

direct download | Internet Archive page

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