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Online Physician Ratings: Embrace The Inevitable

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
.  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

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5 Responses to “Online Physician Ratings: Embrace The Inevitable”

  1. Joe G says:

    Oh, and if your doctor made you sign a release saying you wouldn’t publicly comment on the quality of the experience, wouldn’t that make you a wee bit suspicious? What, exactly, is such a doctor trying to hide?

  2. ValJonesMD says:

    Dear Joe – couldn’t agree with you more.  I’d never go to a physician who required that I promise not to rate him/her online.  It’s not enforceable and only raises suspicions.  The professional doctor rater (a la Rotten Tomatoes movie critics vs consumer ratings) is interesting but would be hard to do for all docs.  It is food for thought, though.

  3. KellyClose says:

    totally agree – it’s coming and the train is too hard to stop. like pay-for-performance, there are a lot of challenging aspects of online ratings – but there’s more good here for patients, which is what it has to be about, in the age of 8-minute primary care doctor visits, etc. i know i’ve had lots of fabulous doctors and have written much more good about the doctors than anything else, because i want other patients to be as lucky as i feel to be under their care. here’s to more tools like this ~ 

  4. C Coleman Brown MD says:

    As a practitioner, I welcome positive thinking regarding the improvement of patient care. I do, however, know that gripe sessions and chat room type areas only serve to make things more complicated. Is a Zagat type rating the best for everyone? I know I read it but is it really accurate? Maybe we can have it link to my Nav system to find the best rated doctor within a 5 mile radius.

    However, as the last commentor mentions, the train is rolling. Why shouldn’t people have some better way of finding a high quality physician without blindly picking one from a directory? Hopefully the ratings groups will scrutinize and discard openly malicious and defamatory “ratings”. That sort of thing helps none.

  5. Anonymous says:

    After 25 years with the same internist, I will probably look for a new doctor.  He has turned over many of the one on one contacts that made him such a good doctor to his nurse. I now receive a phone call from the nurse with the result of tests. Of course she can’t answer any of my questions. At my last appointment I tried to ask him some questions and he said “we will take care of that laundry list at your yearly checkup”. We are both in our mid 50′s. I see him throughout the year and “yearly” checkups are few and far between. If I had to rate him I would not recommend him to anyone who needs a doctor on a regular basis.  He is fine for cold, flu, or minor illnesses.


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