A story about a horrible killing in Oakland, Calif., caught my attention. The shooting of a young man by a security guard was captured on tape. The reaction of the community has been national news. This event also received National Public Radio (NPR) coverage in relation to state regulations on videotaping police. Some states have made it a crime to videotape police in action.
One Web site is devoted to publishing such videotapes. The creator of the Web site was asked on the NPR program about how often the site shows videos in which the police are seen in a good light. He said that rarely happens, but he acknowledges the site isn’t designed to encourage the posting of videos that support the police side of the story. A caller to the program, the executive director of the Massachusetts Police Association was supportive of the public videotaping police officers, pointing out that most of the time such video would be supportive of police.
The police video issue shows the effects of selection bias, a very common problem. When a site like carlosmiller.com solicits video that shows police in a poor light, the site doesn’t provide a representative sample of what’s really going on. Front page news stories about doctors (or about anything else) are similarly biased toward bad events. Even doctor ratings sites can be biased, particularly those that call only for submissions of problems.
What people need is all representative information, good and bad, in order to make well-informed judgments. At DrScore, we encourage all patients to give their doctors feedback, and we encourage doctors to ask their patients — all their patients, the happy ones and, especially, the unhappy ones — to give feedback too.
Getting feedback that tells us how we can do a better job is, after all, a huge gift.