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Google News Feed Returns a Dud

One of the frustrating things about how Google indexes and syndicates their news product is that it gives equal credibility to all news sources. This may seem nice and democratic, but I do believe outlets like the New York Times and WSJ should have a priority in their reporting. Otherwise, some unintended consequences can occur in the form of misinformation for unsuspecting readers. As an example, the RSS feed for the Google news search for "physical therapy" returned this news bit from the American Chronicle. What is the American Chronicle? Anyway, when you click it, you get an article by Steve Hefferon "reviewing" back pain treatments. You find lines like:

"There is a little joke in Physical Therapy when treating patients and it has to do with what course of modalities you will get. The joke is called Shake and Bake and it refers to the fact that everyone gets the same treatment protocol… that way it can be timed so that your PT can see other people simultaneously.

What goes into a shake and bake treatment? It may start with a spin on a stationary bike or a trot a treadmill than you will get a 3 to 5 minute Ultrasound over the effected area followed by Electrical Stimulation to the area with a little Ice strapped to your body and to finish off your session you will get a hand out with exercises you should do at home. Certainly not a recipe for success!"

This type of bunk should not get any credit at all on Google. Hefferon, by the way, is the founder of the The Healthy Back Institute. You can go there and learn all about why Physical Therapy is no good, and how Mr. Hefferon can take his A.S. in Physical Therapy and a 2000 year old back pain cure to fix you up! Also of interesting note on the site is the Medical Advisory Board, which included one Robert V. Duvall, DPT. Please do note, that this is not Robert E. Duvall, PT, DHSc, MMSc, OCS, ATC, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Manual Therapy Fellowship Program Director, Sports Medicine of Atlanta, but a significantly different one. Under no circumstance should one confuse the two!

Digging further into the website of the Healthy Back Institute, you find all of the common elements of a modern day huckster. This would include the obligatory "breaking news item" complete with a non health care worker (a "post rehab specialist"-as though it really exists) explaining that back problems get worse even though you do not experience pain. You have the "secret" of back pain revealed, the enticing "free" guides (used of course by half a million people around the globe), unfounded claims of success in over 80 countries and umpteen options to purchase all kinds of $97 cures. Heck, 2 minutes on the site and you think you have been on a Kevin Trudeau infomercial (the ultimate huckster by the way).

Bottom line:  It seems unfortunate that such low quality "news" is returned by Google to those looking for real news about physical therapy.  This does nothing to help the profession's branding.  As Seth Godin points out on his blog, the challenge for Google is "that the 'algorithm' that drives the search engine doesn't favor trusted partners."  It will be interested to see how the Google Health initiative figures out how to silence hucksters like this.  Until then, reader beware!

Eric and Larry


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