We often talk about how not every doctor, nor every nurse, is an expert in our health concerns. Same would be true for chiropractors or naturopaths. These are usually good, well-meaning people who try to keep up on the latest information, but today it's become difficult. So basic to what I preach as "patient power" is for all of us to be smarter patients, sharper healthcare consumers. That works reasonably well in interacting with legitimate healthcare providers. But what about when the "provider" is a slick huckster, out for money only, and practicing fraud in their claims of being help to help ease pain or provide a cure and in the "credentials" they put forth. Yes, there are people whose plaques on the wall are a sham.

That brings me to the story of what a Seattle Times expose calls "Miracle Machines – the 21st Century Snake Oil." Investigative reporter Michael Berens and his team spent a year crisscrossing the country traveling overseas to gather the sad facts about devices – boxes of wires, large and small – that comprise "energy medicine." Yes, there may be some validity that low voltage stimulation of muscles can help in sports medicine applications. But can they cure cancer, relieve pain, stop allergies? There is no evidence…no respected studies.

There are, however, pyramids of sales people and "practitioners" who are getting rich, one in the Seattle area earning $7,000 a week, stealing the hope of desperately sick people, and failing to provide any quantifiable healthcare value.

Mike Berens came on my radio show (link to replay) recently and gave voice to his findings: A federal fugitive from justice, living in a plush building in Budapest, Hungary, operates a network of sales people around the world who sell the EPFX device with all sorts of unproven health claims. People adore him as almost a cult-like figure. But some patients die too, putting their faith in the EPFX and "healthcare providers" who use them who are often former insurance salespeople now wearing lab coats. Many of these practitioners spent a few hundred dollars on a mail order "degree" from other disreputable business people who laugh all the way to the bank.

Mike Berens and his team deserve a Pulitzer Prize in my book. But the shame of this is his series and my hour long show don't have enough impact. EPFX clinics continue to open, the guy in Budapest gets richer and so do the people downstream who distribute and operate his machines.

Desperate patients continue to believe there is hope and that medical doctors are failing to disclose a hidden truth about the benefits energy medicine as the secret medical cure.

C'mon folks: is the American Medical Association all powerful? Do big drug companies control the minds of each and every real doctor? Baloney!

Unfortunately, because of this conspiracy theory there are criminals who find a big opportunity to fleece the public and, in too many cases, encourage people to turn away from care that could really help.

Yes, there are miles of testimonials of people who have been helped by "miracle cures" your doctor doesn't know about. But if they really worked for many people, if there were verifiable studies, don't you think it really would be front page news. Believe me, I have always been looking for a cure for baldness (see my photo) and, despite a lot of claims, nothing has ever emerged, right?

Look at weight loss. Former NFL coach Don Shula and his wife go on television pushing a plan. Baseball manager Tommy Lasorda has pushed another. But the vast majority of people either don't lose weight or can't keep it off. They even gain more back. Don and Tommy don't tell you that. They just smile.

What the energy medicine folks do is much, much worse. They lie and they steal and they watch desperate people suffer and even die. Strong words, I know. But we've got to speak out against medical fraud. And there's a lot more to say. Look for a Patient Power series on medical fraud and a broader discussion in January. My friends at Medicare are already lining up to help. Believe me they've been fleeced too.

And thanks to Mike Berens and the Seattle Times for their groundbreaking work. It takes courage, time and money to keep up with the crooks. Unfortunately our government agencies haven't kept up well enough. So, once again, you as the patient have to have heightened awareness. The old saying should ring in your ears: "If it sounds too good to be true it probably is."

Andrew