I think the internet will have a huge impact on patient satisfaction of how they are treated by doctors. The idea of internet sites that rate doctors and hospitals has been around for about 5 years. In the past the sites have been difficult to view, some cost money and they were not user friendly. But like anything new...it may now have reached a tipping point.
I logged onto Ratemd.com and was surprised to see how easy the site was to navigate. It was free and you could look up doctors by name or city. I looked for my name...not there. But I found ratings on many of my doctor colleagues and 12 ratings on one of my "larger than life" medical school pals who now practices in Southern California. Wow he better make some improvements. It sounds like he is running a factory and the patients are none too happy. With a 5 point scale (5 being excellent) patients could rate doctors on punctual, helpful and knowledgeable and leave comments.
I found only a few surprises. In any medical community, we know who is outstanding and who was probably in the bottom third of their class. We know who is weird but brilliant and who has mediocre skills and a bad personality. The ratings of the doctors I know seemed to fit what I would imagine their patient interaction skills were.
The criticism of these sites is that only the very happy and the very unhappy patient will take the time to post a comment. That is probably valid...but it is still useful information for the person looking to find a doctor. Patients often have nothing to go on except a list of names. Another criticism is that it is not a good way to judge quality. I agree with that, but we don't seem to be providing any alternative. Until we can define, measure and report on quality, we are stuck with patient satisfaction. The quality experience is what a patient wants and these sites give a glimpse into that experience.