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.
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