In the past five years more than 40 Web sites have begun reviewing physicians. Questions about their usefulness have fueled debate. As a defensive measure, some physicians are requiring patients to sign broad agreements that prohibit online postings or commentary in any media outlet. Medical Justice, a company that for a fee starting at $495 provides sample privacy agreements and monitors online comments for its 2,000 physician members.
Read more in this Washington Post article. Suffice it to say there are arguments on both sides of this thorny issue.
Freedom of speech probably trumps the “for” arguments. Word of mouth is here to stay. It can happen in a real conversation face to face or online. No real difference. The same useful or trivial information will be shared.
And that points to just how useful any of this is at the end of the day for your actual health, the “against” argument.
Hospitals spend millions advertising their quality ratings and positioning themselves to be featured in the U.S. News and World Report Best hospitals. Yet no one really understands an iota about the ratings and the criteria. Yet it forms a perception, maybe a wrong one. Same with physician ratings that paint a picture of a doctor more from the office experience than clinical ability. I rather know a primary care physician’s rate of correct diagnosis if you could measure it. Or tell me how many procedures of x y or z you have performed so I get a comfort level of your real expertise. Oh yeah how many people died under your watch? But that is not what these sites are touting.
They are touting in the physician’s case the experience and that is something that physicians need to pay attention to or they will lose patients to a practice that may be clinically equivalent but offer more in terms of a pleasing experience. John Swapceinski, a founder of RateMDs.com, says waiting time is a "huge issue" mentioned often, as are statements such as the doctor "never made eye contact and was out in 30 seconds."
I left a competent physician and now drive 40 miles out of my way for the experience of my primary care physician. Why? Well let’s start with he actually returns phone calls and spends time with you. This is simple people.
The public should take most of the information with a grain of salt. Unfortunately providers have to assess the damage to their reputations. "I'd love to have a Web site where I could complain about patients," one doctor said. Yeah, that’s the answer. For me it comes down to the experience. And that can be subjective.
It’s about how you would like to feel when the visit is said and done and how much you are willing to tolerate. Were you harried, worried, discomforted or were you assured, confident and bolstered. You may have a clinically fine doctor that offers the former experience and decide to put up with it. That is your decision. Or you may decide that feeling confident and supported in your healing journey is just as important as the practitioner’s clinical expertise. Then you might walk.