A while back I was discussing Stack Exchange's goal of sites by and for experts with a friend who is in the health field, and in discussing a then-hypothetical health site she pointed out that the questions lay people have are likely very different from the ones medical professionals have. She suggested that lay people are unlikely to ask questions about continuing-education requirements, licensure in new jurisdictions, the new CPT billing codes, whether such-and-such service includes credit-card billing in its basic fee, and ethical conundrums (conundra?).

Now that this site exists I figured I'd try to find out and relay the answer: are questions that arise from the practice of medicine on-topic? If, as I suspect, the answer is "some but not all of them", where are the boundaries?

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    Answering in comments (!!!) and as a doc, not a mod: I wrote out a long answer, and finally realized, no. A lot of the stuff I talk to other doctors about is not subject matter that would be interesting here or that I would discuss in public. :-/ Except medical questions. We ask each other medical questions all the time. We call them "hallside consults". But this is something that should be decided by the community. Apr 27, 2015 at 1:06
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    Food for thought: meta.health.stackexchange.com/questions/206/… - The only difference here is that questions about the practice may also be asked by laypersons.
    – Shlublu
    Apr 27, 2015 at 10:37
  • @Shlublu thanks for pointing that out. This is nearly a duplicate of that; even though my question isn't explicit about professional-to-professional, I wonder if we should close it as a dupe to avoid fragmenting answers. Apr 27, 2015 at 13:00
  • @MonicaCellio I think this is not an explicit duplicate. It is more an overlap. Let's keep it open for now, we'll see what other users think. (Your vote count tends to agree :) )
    – Shlublu
    Apr 27, 2015 at 13:03
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    My 2 cents on it: My personal litmus test at the current time is "Will this knowledge improve either my health personally, or the general health of a cohort?". If the answer is no, close and move on. It's the "maybe" questions that are going to be a little trickier to define and handle. So would knowing about new CPT codes improve my health or that of the community? Not really, no. Same for licensure, etc. It's the fuzzy edges that will get fun. :)
    – JohnP
    Apr 27, 2015 at 17:25
  • @JohnP I would argue that anything that helps health professionals practice more effectively, such as knowing how to efficiently bill insurance for their services and thus remain in business to treat new patients, improves the long-term health of the community. Same goes for licensure and CEUs. These may not be as "medical" as the procedure to treat an injury, but medical professionals need to spend time dealing with them just the same. If we can provide the resources for pros to deal with the non-medical stuff faster, that means they can get back to improving the health of the community. Apr 28, 2015 at 18:56
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    It sounds like some of these comments are proto-answers. Please consider turning them into answers, which can be voted on. Apr 28, 2015 at 18:57
  • I just created a tag to try to encompass this. Please (Monica or others) feel free to tweak the excerpt or add more wiki if you have ideas about how to describe this clearly. I’m not especially excited about my choice of wording in the excerpt at the moment, but I wanted to provide some explanation.
    – Susan
    Sep 25, 2015 at 0:57
  • @Susan that looks reasonable to me. If I think of improvements I'll propose edits. Sep 25, 2015 at 1:15

1 Answer 1


I think that if they're not, they need to be in order for the community to remain healthy. My reasoning for this draws from two sites that have made it to the "Grown Up" phase of StackExchange that I've been involved in:

First, the full blown public sites:

  • CrossValidated. This site has both some very basic questions (one of my most popular answers is on a pretty fundamental aspect of regression) and some extremely advanced questions by-and-for professionals, including some I've asked that have impacted my own research.
  • Academia. I will admit I was worried about this site in the public beta phase, but it has graduated, and I think may be where the Health site might aspire to be. The vast majority of questions on the site are asked by students, are often somewhat personal in nature, but are dealt with by a supportive community, many of whom are senior or relatively senior academics. At the same time however, there is definitely room to for those senior people to ask questions and get advice from their peers.

I think the key to both of those sites is that the incentive to post there by professionals is to foster the kind of place where they can also ask question - I have a close to 1:50 Questions to Answers ratio on Academia, but those questions that I did ask were very important to me - and got answered, and answered well. I ask a lot more questions on CrossValidated, but my ratio there is still about 1:6. But for both places, there's a strong incentive to participate in order to foster an environment that, selfishly, will someday benefit me.

If you remove that, then answering questions on this site becomes purely an exercise in public service for the experts posting here, and a public service that they will neither be paid for, particularly recognized for, or professionally rewarded for (in contrast to perhaps StackOverflow). While that may be sustainable for a few dedicated few, it runs the risk of having most experts on the site come to view it as "Something to browse when I'm on SE for something else and have a few minutes", which is not I think a particularly healthy place to be for a site.

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    Thanks for answering. It sounds like you're focusing mainly on the degree of difficulty of questions; how do you feel about things that are at the edges of scope? A question about licensure isn't, strictly speaking, about health, but it's a question that health-care professionals would have. Should those be in or out (or some of each, and if so how do we tell)? May 7, 2015 at 14:07
  • @MonicaCellio It's mostly about degree of difficulty, but also a little bit about scope - for example, if "Academia" was instead "Grad Students", it would be somewhat useless to me. I'd like to see questions like licensure be in-scope, because I think SE as a whole is better with less fragmentation. Basically, how we should tell, in my mind, is "Is a doctor/nurse/medical professional the best one to answer this?" If not, it could probably use migrating.
    – Fomite
    May 7, 2015 at 17:18

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