The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog recently featured a heated
debate about the utility of online physician ratings. On the one hand, some physicians are worried
that their reputations will be harmed by poor ratings given by a select minority
of disgruntled patients. Some have gone
so far as to ask that their patients sign an agreement not to participate in
online physician ratings. On the other
hand, many physicians view online ratings as a welcome form of constructive feedback
– believing that the ratings will further showcase their already good work.
I believe that physician ratings are not a perfect measure of
quality care, but they can offer a legitimate and enlightening patient
perspective on bedside manner, office efficiency, and communication skills. Many patients have nothing more than a health
insurance company’s list of “in network professionals” from which to choose a
provider. Online physician ratings sites
now give them a little bit more information to guide their selection process.
The potential for inappropriate or libelous postings depends
upon how carefully the ratings company reviews the comments. Open message boards may degenerate into gripe
sessions, but closely monitored ratings like those at Revolution Health, are much less risky. Even more valuable will
be the fusion of consumer ratings, peer reviews, hospital, and health
plan ratings of an individual physician all in one place. This kind of rating system is not far off.
The bottom line is that online physician ratings are here to
stay – and the best way for the ratings to fairly reflect the average patient’s
experience is to have physicians encourage all their patients to rate them
online. In that way, the rare
disgruntled patient’s review will be seen in the context of the majority of
satisfied customers. If the majority of
comments are still cautionary, then it becomes more likely that the physician
him or herself has some work to do.
Since the American Board of Medical Specialties is now
recommending demonstration of patient satisfaction as part of the recertification
process for many specialties, online physician rating sites may actually become
a great (and cost effective) way for physicians to collect such qualitative
data. So my advice to physicians is to
embrace physician ratings and make them work for you and for the benefit of
your future patients. Give the audience
some credit – they won’t judge you on one outlier comment… unless perhaps that’s
the only comment they see.
Your views and dissenting opinions are welcome.
This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.