Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Problem with Healthcare Ratings Sites

The internet is such a fabulous medium with unlimited possibilities and the ability to seemingly find any piece of information on any topic in the universe.  American healthcare is one of the largest expenditures by GDP in this country, and thus is also one of the most discussed and debated sectors from a professional, personal, financial, and societal standpoint.  Physicians are at the epicenter of this debate and their professional reputations are in the crosshairs.  Patients (like consumers in other sectors) drive the discussions about doctors in social circles as well as water cooler diatribes.  A patient’s choice of physician can be as simple as a good recommendation from a colleague at the office coffee pot on Monday morning or on the 18th green on Saturday afternoon.   

We all know that gossip, opinion, and innuendo should not sway important life decisions which is why healthcare/physician ratings websites seem like SUCH a great idea.  Patients rate their doctors by quality, experience, knowledge, personality, availability, and bedside manner.  All is happy in the world as the sun sets onto a rainbow and the story ends…

Should a site like this have all of the qualities listed in the prior paragraph?  Absolutely.  Should patients have access to this data at the tip of their fingers?  Positively.  Is this type of site available now?  Negativo.  

Unfortunately, what should be a very popular way of rank ordering physicians by specialty on every mobile device, laptop, and desktop in the US so that consumers can make an informed decision IS a big mess of disordered ratings with bias, low numbers leading to unknown significance, and poor relevance to the general public.  Take it a step farther and one should be able to subdivide the good/great physicians by personality type, work ethic, peer esteem, etc. to sync up patients with preferred characteristics.  Undeniably, the availability of this type of site could change the way patients access their healthcare and ease tough decisions.  

The biggest issue with the current milieu of healthcare ratings is that the most popular ones out there are no different than your typical site that rates plumbers and electricians.  The bottomline is that the people who know doctors and hospitals best are not involved in the ratings process.  Other doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers should know the lay of the land better than even the most informed patients.  Someone recently commented to me that no one knows medicine doctors better than ICU nurses and no one knows surgeons better than operating room techs and nurses.  I believe it.  

Now we have to be careful not to make this a popularity contest, but the addition of peer ratings to patient ratings is a HUGE step in the right direction. gives doctors, nurses, and patients the ability to rate anonymously or publicly. 

There are several challenges to this approach as doctors are historically as likely to participate in this type of process as a preacher is to be seen at a gentleman’s establishment.  Unfortunately, we cannot give physician’s incentives to rate each other for fear of bias.  However, physician satisfaction scores have now moved into a prominent role and are poised to determine a percentage of a doctor’s reimbursement in the future.  For this reason, DoctorRated thinks that physicians as a whole should embrace peer ratings and take control of the ratings sector.  The nice thing from a physician standpoint is that once you spend the time to rate your referring doctors, you should have minimal maintenance to do to keep your preferences accurate.  

Patients also do not seem to be interested in rating doctors as evidenced by the low number of ratings per doctor on the popular sites.  DoctorRated thinks the reason for this has to do with “the out of sight, out of mind” philosophy.  We need to attract patients to rate while in the doctor’s waiting room or on the way out of the office.  Otherwise, this may never gain traction.  Our hope is that you will start seeing DoctorRated signs in waiting rooms and given cards on your way out of the office.  

With some momentum, DoctorRated is poised to give the medical community and society a useful tool to help patients and doctors improve their healthcare decisions.  

David Jones is the owner of and a private practice cardiologist.  

1 comment:

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