Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rate Your Doctor


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.

18 comments:

Linda Fairchild said...

As my dear Dr. Graves used to say "it's hard to sue someone you love". The bond between patient and doctor is very special and the great doctors understand that their best "ratings" are based on that connection. Despite the insurance issues and billing confusion that frustrates so many, ultimately patients base their evaluations of the doctor not on his/her "practice management" but the unique care from the doctor.

Vance Esler said...

I knew these types of sites were out there, but I had not seen this one. Like you, I'm not there. But I did check on some of my friends, and as you predicted, the ratings were either 1 (terrible) or 5 (best doc on earth). There were no in-betweens.

What also troubles me about these sites is the anonymity. Like anonymous comments on blogs, people can say anything without any accountability and (1) without any way for the doctor to even know that he or she was attacked and (2) without any way to respond.

If a patient gives a doctor a crummy rating, what can the doctor do? The doctor cannot respond by saying that the patient refused to follow instructions or was unable to understand them. The doctor cannot tell the world any of the mitigating circumstances that may have resulted in the patient's displeasure -- and yet were not the doctor's fault at all. In short, the doctor is out there as a target, and s/he cannot shoot back even in self-defense.

It is hard to rate doctors. Even doctors have a hard time figuring out who is really good, and who is not. How much more difficult is it for non-physicians to know?

Yet, philosophically, such web sites are only an extension of the "word of mouth" concept which has been in effect forever. So I guess we learn to live with it.

I can say this: I feel more secure having patients rate me than having third parties (insurance companies) do so. After all, patients comment on the care we actually delivered, while insurers care more about the cost! Very different agendas indeed!

Toni Brayer MD said...

Vance, thanks for the insightful comment. You are so right about theinsurance company profiling of doctors! And I agree that the ratings seem to be at the extremes (5's or 1's) on all of these sites.

Anonymous said...

See? That one doctor wants to strike back at the patient! This is a constant theme with me--and I treat it on my health humor site, Health's Ass, sometimes. http://healthsass.blogspot.com. One in three docs you might happen on, like, throw in with, then wonder...hmmm...was in the bottom third of his or her class. How can one know? Or they could be like the doctor you mentioned--a huge cheese, but the patients hate him. I recently had four eye surgeries to correct a detached retina. Can't see a lick. So I consulted a different specialist. He said my surgeon was not as good as his partner. Nifty keen. Now what...It's academic anyhow bec I can't afford more surgeries. We patients often get in these tremendous jackpots with these doctors. I am supposed to tell others what to do, and I don't know what to do for myself. Those magazines that list Top docs--I understand the docs pay to be in there or run ads to be in there or that other doctors recommend them. How do other doctors know? None of these guys seem to know each other anymore. I am ranting. Sorry.

Cary said...

I agree that sites such as this do not give doctors a chance to rebuttal against the claims of the patient. I would also like to see sites such as ratemd not allow anonymous comments. However, if a doctor is running a good practice, s/he may receive a few incredulous comments, but the cream will come to the top.

Anonymous said...

Regarding anonymous ratings: if my doctor ever reads what I wrote about him, he will know exactly who I am. He is free to call and apologize or defend himself at any time! As a prospective patient, I do not need the names of people who rated the doctor--just the opinion.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Doc's are alway saying we sue them, yet this is certainly a better way to voice a concern - yet again the doc's are not happy..

You won't get it until you understand you are suppling a service and people (even those with insurance) are paying you for those services. If you become a doc you put yourself out there like any other service related industry! Be a bit more humble, learn from your patients and maybe someday you will be like Linda F. Doc and the patient will feel a real bond with you, but as long as patients know you don't give a damn it comes through loud and clear!

Valerie said...

I like blogs like this one. I think the majority of people are honest. I had a good recommendation for a doctor by a few people. So I stayed with the doctor and I should have trusted my instincts. Some times the only way we can get the truth is places like these. Take the information on blogs and decide for your self what the doctors are like. Trust your feelings.

Clark Adams said...

Online service rating sites such as the one you've mentioned are really useful. In a way, they can be considered as a good customer relationship management tool. It can also be a good way of putting you on the list of go-to doctors in your area. This kind of data management is pretty nifty if you ask me. Not only will you know how your patients like how your deliver your service. You can also use the ratings as a form of a "gauge" on how much you need to improve.

Data management has been used as tools which can provide you with accreditation solutions, and ease of access to urgent data. If you look back a little bit in the past, you'll remember that most of the stuff was on paper. That was a hassle, right? Now, we're dealing with just digital records which can be easily accessed and backed up in case of emergency without having to waste any paper. That's data management for you!

buy generic viagra said...

Years ago... been a doctor wasn't a profession, it was vocation, but I can't trust doctors, everything for them it's money, I don't look for rates, I just read a learn myself, some who dress a white coat or have a degree doesn't mean it's good.

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I think that one big issue is the service that he provides, I mean, his/her politeness, his/her responsibility, and of course the work background.

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Nurse and Hospital Stories said...

"The quality experience is what a patient wants and these sites give a glimpse into that experience."

So true. Yet it is only a glimpse, that it can happen that the patient who commented may be unsatisfied, and yet there are still patients that had felt satisfaction with their doctor that didn't comment. In one way or another there is a great probability of wrong judgement here. I say great great probability since, there is also a glimpse of the truth of the doctors' given care to satisfy their patients.

Thanks for sharing, eh
Peny@eye chart

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