How doctors should be using the Internet to get smart…and rich

The beauty of building stealth wealth, saving more than you spend, and achieving financial independence is that the knowledge to achieve all that is freely shared among the online community. Communal knowledge is power. If there is some convoluted financial calculation to be proven, you can bet that someone online will have the time to do it. If you have a money question that needs an answer, you will likely have more than one anonymous online surfer who will be more than willing to offer you her opinion. Make a mistake, and you will also be put in your place. I love the Internet!

Medical knowledge cannot be mastered through online forums

This is my soapbox. I like that our search engine engineers perform miracles to scour the Internet for answers. Medical knowledge is free to be absorbed by the masses, and improved medical knowledge by the masses has overall been positive for our society.

The problem with medical knowledge is that the material is vast, and there is probably a reason why it takes at least nine years from the start of medical school until finishing general surgery residency just so that you can remove someone’s appendix.  What you can find in any textbook or online forum simply cannot substitute for the pain, lost sleep, and diligence in those nine years of training.

This is where an educated layperson can go wrong.  How about engineers charting their PSA scores and arguing with you the best way to treat their prostate cancer? (Looking at you @WallStreetPhysician). Or a self-taught expert in herbal medicine substituting their U100 insulin with cinnamon tea? We’ve all had our cocktail hour stories of getting in discussions with our patients who, if they had gone to even 6 months of medical school, probably would have realized that their reasoning is puerile.

I once had a patient whose stomach had no antrum from prior surgeries who was severely vitamin deficient. He claimed that doctors were trying to “poison” and “torture” him from the megadoses of parenteral vitamin shots while a simple “low-dose” pill with plenty of water would have done the trick. He bought his pills from an online retailer in India.

One answer: first-pass metabolism. (The bit about mail-order vitamin supplements isn’t worth my energy to discuss).

I know I speak for all surgeons that after mastering this model, caring for horses will be a piece of cake!

Doctors can (and should) use the Internet to further their lay knowledge

Basic knowledge, however, can be gleaned from self-education. This can be done quite effortlessly through online forums.  Doing so can save you a lot of headaches and money if properly applied.

Case in point: Your air conditioner breaks down in the summer. The local HVAC guy, who provides free estimates, gives you an itemized quote for a repair job. Even if you knew nothing about air conditioners, you could probably find the average hardware store price for the equivalent part. When you realize that the markup cost is like 9000% of the retail cost, you could probably ask the repair man a few questions. Hint: folks in this line of work rarely buy parts at even retail cost.  Even if you were completely off base with unfounded questions, you hopefully learned something.

We get asked unfounded questions all of the time in medicine. I’ve been asked by patients to operate at a “cheaper” hospital or to decrease the price of surgery, when the patient very well knows that I work for a hospital and simply have no authority over the health insurance company to make these calls.

Do yourself a favor and invoke your resourcefulness to your advantage.

Use your resourcefulness to get rich

Doctors are in demanding professions.  Some of us are in specialties that consume more of our free time, but the beauty of Internet knowledge is that you can learn as much or as little as you choose.  Pick the highest yield tasks to outsource, and deal with what you enjoy.

You might also like: The calculated approach to outsourcing your life

This is how the wealthy become wealthier.  If you plan to take out a $1 million mortgage for your McMansion, you’d benefit from learning a little bit about mortgage lenders, points, and rates even if it takes some time away from your golf game.  If it only takes a few hours of online surfing to save you tens of thousands of dollars on a home renovation job, you ought to do it.  Eventually you won’t be able to afford the extra back pain from pulling extra shifts in the ER to make up the difference in savings.

Remember, you were quite resourceful to make it through medical school and residency. Think outside of the box. You’ve made it into a career that confers good income. Extend that income even further by learning to be smart with your finances.  Surprisingly, it really doesn’t take much time.

What knowledge do you typically use the Internet to acquire?

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