Friday, April 25, 2008

Dr. Rating - Here to Stay

Once "google" became a noun as well as a verb, the cat was out of the bag in terms of getting information...all kinds of information...on doctors. There are a reported 31 online sites that use different rating systems and allow patients to post comments on service, promptness, kindness of staff and other parameters. There is a glut of venture capital money going into these sites and some are easy to navigate, some are a mess. See my prior post on rate your doctor.

Some doctors are none too happy about the new transparency. They say the rating systems are arbitrary and can be easily manipulated. They say patients don't have a clue about skill, or competence or the things that really make a good physician. One disgruntled patient can unfairly dis a doctor and influence others. Others feel the comments are random and meaningless.

The online rating systems cannot really tell a patient if the doctor is competent. Many brilliant physicians have lousy offices or gruff manner. Surgeons particularly may be great in the OR but really inept when it comes to patient interaction. If a patient just wants a technician for a one time surgery, getting referrals from other satisfied patients or nurses will be more valuable than online rating.

Right now there are too many rating sites and the ones that work the best for consumers will emerge as the winner. When that happens, the ratings will be more valuable and trustworthy as a place to get valid information.

I think you can't turn back. Rating systems and transparency with the internet are here to stay. Yes, there will be unfair comments, but if more patients do the ratings, they will be balanced by good comments. Unless the doctor is really a dud. Perhaps for him, the bad ratings could trigger a change in how the office is run or even some help with bedside manner.

To get the most out of online ratings, patients should look for themes. If all the comments say the doctor was dismissive, or the staff was rude, there is probably something to it. If there is one bad comment among a sea of satisfied patients, that rating can be thrown out. These ratings are not scientific and should be thought of as just another piece of information to help people make better choices with their health care dollar.

Healing is both an art and a science and the internet might give a little more nudge toward the compassion side of medicine and help with some needed changes.


Gale Wilson-Steele said...

It's so refreshing to read such a balanced perspective on the Doctor Review phenomenom, and coming from a practicing MD at that. At and we attempt to encourage nurses to add their recommendations on the best doctors, feeling that as healthcare insiders, nurses can give a valid perspective of quality care.
As you point out, so many review sites are bound to create dilution of effort by having so many places to read and write reviews. Perhaps Google will consolidate the noise, and give us yet another option to finding good care with confidence.

Anonymous said...

I would consider these sites to be a supplement to other methods of researching doctors - not as a sole source of information. I would look for, as you say, trends - for example, my own PCP has several ratings on one website, all of them high. If there is only one rating, good bad or indifferent, I would ignore it.
Over time, the ratings will start to become more and more valid.
Yes, I have left comments myself. Most good to excellent. But for one - well, 10 weeks of treatment, and all I did was get worse. Changed to a doctor whose approach was different, and got better. How would you rate the first one? Maybe his approach works for others? He missed something on my x-ray, didn't "believe" in PT the way the new doc does. I was fair, but honest. Everyone has their strong points; my case was not one of his.
Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

Healthnut said...

While it is true that the general public do not have enough comprehension to judge a competent from an incompetent doctor, I do think a rating system can be a great resource for those seeking a new doctor. People want to hear about the successes of doctors. They want to know which doctors treat what specific ailments better. I know you are afraid that patients are more likely to complain than to rave, but the fact that not all doctors are board certified or unethical can be scary, especially when doctors are given dangerous tools to use - scalpels and needles.

You will be surprised that all doctors are as saint as you are. Just a few days ago, the media reported a group of doctors posting a mocking surgery video on You Tube. I know this is not the norm, but anyone seeing this video will certainly want to avoid those doctors.

Toni Brayer MD said...

Thank you gale wilson-steele and anon for your thoughtful comments. To healthnut: reread my blog and you will see that we are in total agreement (as usual).

James said...

I have faith that the general public is pretty smart in these matters. When the lay-person reads patient reviews of doctors. I think he generally understands that they are just that patient reviews and don't necessarily reflect expertise in any particular area, particular skill as a surgeon, etc. If you're basically healthy and a doctor's style, location and bedside manner are the most important thing, people know google will be just fine. If you have a very specific condition and need someone who knows a lot about that particular illness, they'll go somewhere else.

jackpot said...

Thanks to the blog owner. What a blog! nice idea.

Auberon said...

I believe one and all must look at it.
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