Earlier this year, I was privileged to participate in a health blogger summit convened by Consumer Reports at its New York headquarters. One of the topics discussed at the event — in fact, the one that generated the most controversy — was online health ratings systems.
Many in attendance — including doctors and consumer advocates — were supportive of online ratings, particularly in helping patients find a doctor. But others, most notably Avery Comarow, editor of “America’s Best Hospitals” for U.S. News & World Report, dismissed Web ratings as dangerous popularity contests. Avery made the point that online physician ratings were biased toward negative reviews and had little objective medical basis.
I agree with Avery that doctor ratings sites are far from perfect. But frankly, to dismiss them out of hand is just silly — or at least unrealistic. People use them because, increasingly, people need them.
Years ago, most people found a physician by asking their neighbors and friends for recommendations and they often stayed with their physician for many years. Today, because of health insurance plans, social mobility, and other factors, patients are seeking new methods for finding and vetting their doctors.
In addition to offering subjective reviews, physician-rating Web sites can help patients research whether a doctor is board-certified, their educational history, office hours, accepted insurance providers, and other information.
If you haven’t used a doctor ratings site before, here are a few that are worth checking out:
- AMA DoctorFinder
- MDNationWide Physician Ratings
- Book Of Doctors
- Angie’s List > Health
Avery is right that patients who have had a bad experience are more likely to write about it on these sites than those who haven’t.
You should certainly keep this in mind, but I’m a firm believer in giving consumers as much information — and as many choices — as possible in making their healthcare decisions.