Today’s Headlines: Online Ratings, Saturated Fat and Cell Phones

Online doctor ratings may not reflect real quality. Next time you’re picking a doctor, you may want to be wary of the ratings they’ve been given online. A new study compared online ratings on privately run websites against patient satisfaction scores and health outcomes from government data. “Each doctor had an average of between five and six patient ratings on the websites. Doctors’ website ratings mostly did not match the clinical quality measures. The only area with a small association was patient experience. For example, a doctor with an online rating of one star out of a potential five had 79% of patients who answered the formal survey rate their overall quality of care as ‘very good.’ That compared to 82% of the surveyed patients when the doctor’s online rating was five out of five stars.” The difference may reflect both the small number of reviews available online and the fact that people have different ideas about what makes a good doctor. According to one physician, “there is no danger or cost to looking at the reviews except for time spent at the computer. Prospective patients should not avoid looking at them. But the ratings are not perfect, since the quality of ‘crowd sourcing’ is always going to be based on who exactly is in the crowd and how similar their story is to yours.” (Reuters)

Carbs better correlated with blood fat levels than saturated fat. For decades, saturated fat has been in the crosshairs of health gurus, but it could be that it was wrongfully accused. “In what seems contrary to mainstream dietary advice, a small new study shows that doubling the saturated fat in a person’s diet does not drive up the levels of saturated fat in the blood. Rather, the study found that it was the carbohydrates in people’s diets that were linked with increased levels of a type of fatty acid linked to heart disease and type-2 diabetes.” The reason may be that removed fats are replaced with more carbs, which were causing problems all along. Other commentators have noted that it’s important to remember that there are still better and worse types of fat. “Their study compares two bad diets and the bad effects of carbohydrates are likely to be particularly serious in the obese and insulin resistant population studied. We know from many long-term studies that replacing saturated fats from red meat and dairy with vegetable fats high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats will still reduce risks of heart disease.” (Fox)

Cell phones are always distracting, used or not. Cell phones are undeniably distracting, but most had thought the distraction was limited to when the screen was on. New research has found that the mere presence of a cell phone is enough to send our mind wandering. That study found that “even if you go all day without touching your cell phone once, just having it visible nearby may distract you from complex tasks. In the first part of the study, participants were asked to complete different motor tasks with the study leader’s cell phone visible. In the second, participants completed motor tasks with their own cell phones visible. Performance on complex tasks suffered in both conditions when compared to control groups with no visible cell phone.” The researchers think the effect is likely due to the possibilities a cell phone conjures, rather than what you might actually be doing with it. “With the presence of the phone, you’re wondering what other people might be doing. Even if it’s just mental, your focus is not on the task at hand, whether it be trying to write an article, get this spreadsheet set up, or just socializing. Your mind is elsewhere.” (TIME)