Online doctor rating

The Internet has revolutionized the way we gather information. It’s fast, easy but is it always correct? We’ve all heard that information published on Wikipedia can be questionable with regard to its accuracy. Yet, there are scientific publications that reference Wikipedia. So the question becomes which websites do you trust?

If you Google someone, you may find links to resources such as newspaper articles or even police arrest reports. In the wrong hands the Internet can provide clues for any unsuspecting Nancy Drew out there that is looking to create a dossier on whomever they hold a grudge against.

For instance, if you Google your doctor before you make an appointment, you may be directed to one of many online rating sites. Some physicians, as mentioned in a recent article published by the American College of Physicians Internist, are suing these online sites, stating that these websites allow consumers to rate doctors online, giving them free rein to anonymously post potentially heinous comments that can have detrimental consequences for a physician’s reputation. What’s stopping a disgruntled patient from taking out their frustration online, particularly when they can maintain their anonymity? Most reviews are from satisfied patients. Yet, one bad review can drop your rating from 5 stars to 3. As one recent patient said to me after I asked her how she found me, “I looked you up online. You had some good reviews and one bad review, but I figured that was just some angry patient.” Luckily this woman was not persuaded by my one bad review. So this begs the question, how important are online reviews?

Studies show that consumers use online ratings to support their choices whether they are choosing a doctor or buying a blouse. Chad relies on reviews in selecting hotels and picking restaurants. Recent research looked at 33 rating sites and found that while the use is limited, 88% of posted reviews were positive. The authors noted that with regard to doctors, most complaints were about waiting times and courteousness of office staff.

The American Medical Association (AMA), which has criticized rating sites, contends that “the anonymity detracts from the integrity of the reviews while privacy laws prevent physicians from addressing patients’ concerns.” The AMA stated that, “there is no guarantee that the opinions about a physician even come from that physician’s patient. Anonymous opinions can from anyone.” Dr. Tara Lagu suggested that some reviews appeared to be written by the physicians themselves.

So after my patient told me that I had this “one” bad review, I went online to read it. Chad warned me against it stating that I would obsess over this bad review regardless if there were ten reviews that praised me as a doctor. Of course, he was right, but I couldn’t resist.  I, like many of my colleagues, try to improve the quality of our patient care. If this reviewer had something constructive to say, then I wanted to know what it was.

In his review, he claimed that I never looked him in the eye and that my staff was impolite. He said he was dissapointed in his care. Although he never gave his name, he did provide one detail that I remembered clearly. He said that he heard me speak at a World AIDS Day event. He introduced himself afterward and asked if I would be his doctor.  After one visit followed by three “no shows” I told the patient to find another doctor. I guess he did, but not before he wrote his online review.

Evan Falchuk of Best Doctors, runs a service that helps people find the right doctor. He said, “There will always be people out there who don’t like you or the interaction they had with you. But if they feel like they connected with you in some way, they won’t go and say bad things behind your back. The thing patients want most is trust and knowing that they are the most important person in the doctor-patient relationship.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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One Comment

  1. marc miller
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been using Dr. Spinelli as my primary care physician for awhile. I’ve always found his staff extremely
    hospitable and nothing but courteous. Furthermore, Dr. Spinelli is always informed and helpful.


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