Physicians Videotape Questions for Inclusion in Presidential Debate


A new online physician community is soliciting videotaped questions on healthcare reform that will be submitted for possible inclusion in a Republican presidential debate this fall.

“It’s really up to CNN whether they want to pick this up,” says Tobin Arthur, president of iMedExchange (Seattle), the physician site that had its public launch last Wednesday. CNN on Nov. 28 will air the second of two planned debates with questions asked by the general public, via YouTube video postings, this time with Republican White House hopefuls.

Regardless of what the cable network chooses, iMedExchange plans to forward its videos to presidential candidates from both parties, in part to solicit responses from the candidates, but also to make the voices of individual physicians heard in the national debate on healthcare policy. Arthur says he has been in touch with many of the campaigns already, and the site has posted clips from various candidates discussing their healthcare proposals.

iMedExchange employees are in Chicago today at a meeting on healthcare consumerism and will be at a San Francisco conference on interactive technology Thursday with a video camera to capture physician opinions. “When we’re out at events, we videotape physicians,” Arthur says.

Members of the fledgling company’s physician advisory board also are hosting “videotaping parties” with fellow doctors, Arthur adds, and physicians with technical prowess may upload their own videos to the site.

“YouTube found that all questions from the Democratic debate were the same,” Arthur explains. Healthcare-related inquiries from the general public during the CNN-YouTube debate among Democratic candidates in July focused on access to care and affordability of health insurance.

iMedExchange has set up its own platform on YouTube and is working in conjunction with the Google-owned video sharing site, according to Arthur.

So far, physicians have been quite specific in their questioning, asking about Medicare reimbursement, the legacy of the Terri Schiavo affair, and whether various candidates favor reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.

In the next couple of weeks, iMedExchange will let physician users start rating the videos to help the company pick the most popular questions that will be forwarded to the candidates and to CNN. Anyone may view content on the site, but only registered users — currently limited to physicians — are allowed to comment.

iMedExchange, which Arthur says is modeled after some of the Web’s leading interactive sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Monster.com, also includes message boards, blogs, job listings, and a news feed. Soon, Arthur expects to add a “groups” function, so users can get together online with physicians with common interests or geography.

“This is kind of the key to Web 2.0,” Arthur says, invoking a popular term for sites with user-generated content. “Give them the tools and see where they take it.”

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