Saturday, May 30, 2015

Going Out on a Limb...My Story about the Creation of DoctorRated

I see thousands of patients every year either in my clinic, in the hospital, or at the time of procedures. 
I try to take care of each one of them like they are part of my family.  Some of them want help, some don’t want help, and some can’t be helped.   Despite this, the margin for error is zero.  

I love my patients.  For the most part, they are courteous and even sweet.  Even if I have had a bad day in clinic and am running an hour behind, most will be pleasant.  I struggle to please everyone because a cardiologist’s life sometimes involves moving from one crisis to the next- schedules and time be damned.  Hardly ever do I hear a nasty word from anyone (except my wife when I come home two hours late some days…she actually doesn’t, it just sounded right).  

As you might expect, I take pride in my work and want my patients and my peers- doctors, nurses, staff, hospital administrators- to respect me and think highly of me.  I put a lot of effort into this as it is a quintessential part of growing a medical practice.  

Several years ago, I made the mistake of checking my web-based doctor rating on a popular site.  I had heard of these sites but did not know much about them.  I especially did not know that they are considered by many patients and different parts of the medical community to represent “the truth” when talking about which doctors are good and which are not.  

I developed several observations about this rating and the current environment of web ratings.  First, despite seeing dozens of patients a week, I only had four ratings total…not even 0.1% of my total patient population.  It didn’t help that one of the ratings was less than nice and thus took my overall rating to well below my self-expected average.  I believe the negative comment had to do with the patient’s difficulty finding my office, an issue that is unfortunately out of my control as we send maps to all new patients.  I would have been willing to ignore this bad rating but next to my rating was an unmarked advertisement by a competing group of doctors all with better ratings (all had perfect scores but weren’t even located in the same city in which I practiced).  I realized that my average rating could be detrimental to my practice.  

The second concern occurred when I went to the most popular search engine in the world, typed in “[my name] MD”, and four of the top six results were different healthcare ratings sites.  All of these sites had fewer than four ratings for me.  I had been in practice for three years at the time so I thought the sparse ratings were related to my tenure.  So I searched the most prominent doctors in my city…and found the same issue, fewer than 10 ratings a piece.  

I searched and searched for a ratings site that was different.  I didn’t know it at the time but I was searching for a site where the ratings were based on my expertise and skills.  Unfortunately, the people who know me best professionally are not the patients.  I see a patient for 15-20 minutes once a quarter or twice a year in the clinic OR for a couple of brief encounters during a hospitalization.  I see and work with several dozen doctors for hours every day, sometimes seven days a week, for months on end.  I know which heart surgeon has the lowest mortality rate, which primary care doctor has no idea what he/she is doing, and which ER doctor can’t send anyone home.  It made no sense to me that the current web ratings have no input from doctors.  

Finally, I read an article about online healthcare ratings in which I learned that over 60% of the US population makes decisions about which doctor to see based on these ratings.  AMAZING.  Patients and potential patients are basing their health and welfare on a handful of patient satisfaction scores.  I do believe that patients ratings are important and can identify good vs bad doctors.  I feel strongly, however, that a scant few patient satisfaction ratings are likely not to be statistically significant and cannot evaluate the quality of the doctor, the level of care he/she provides, or the skill/training/experience of the doctor.  

It struck me then that there had to be a better way to address this.   I am not entirely sure when the idea for DoctorRated hit me, but I knew that if we could get doctors to objectively rate their peers based on skill, knowledge, experience, availability, communication skills, etc. and then add the peer ratings to patient satisfaction scores, we would be way ahead of the current curve.  In time, the goal is also to add nationally published quality metrics about each individual doctor and hospital to then form a cumulative doctor’s score.  This will be the next step toward the holy grail of a doctor’s online reputation and healthcare ratings.

The above story is the easy part…growing and developing a network of patients and doctors may prove impossible.  But it’s going to be, if nothing else, interesting.    

1 comment:

  1. Check out to login and search for and rate your doctor(s).