March 10th, 2010
Reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“Choosing a physician is more complicated than choosing a good restaurant,” said Nancy H. Nielsen, immediate past president of the American Medical Association. “Patients owe it to themselves to use the best available resources when making this important decision.”
Web-savvy patients might be tempted to check out the myriad sites rating physicians, but for the present, say experts, don’t. Many sites are well-intentioned but lack the response numbers to be accurate reflections. Others can be downright misleading.
Doctors and health-care professionals say it’s best to take such ratings with a prescription-strength grain of salt.
“A lot of those ratings sites are useless for the evaluation of an individual physician,” said Shaili Jain, who began a website (www.thebedsidemanner.com) in response to the dearth of constructive criticism found on the Internet.
“The need came because I realized that patients were increasingly going to the Internet for all sorts of things — to read about a medical device, if I tell them about a certain condition or medication, they’ll go read about that.
“Then I started to wonder: What else are they reading online?”
A 2009 Harris Poll estimates that 67 percent of American adults report looking for medical information online.
She said that some physicians are requesting patients not participate in online ratings for a variety of reasons.
“If you look at the narrative after visiting a number of these sites, you can see certain themes coming through,” Dr. Jain said. “You realize anybody can go and rate anybody, you might be an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend and nobody is really going to know.
“[Those who leave comments] know there is no way of responding or writing back because we are bound by confidentiality laws. Once some bad ratings go up, it can do a lot of damage.”
The types of physician ratings sites vary. Some, such as DrScore.com, were established by physicians and provide a forum for patient feedback. Others such as HeathGrades.com, will provide you with bare-bones information but will promise more in-depth information — such as disciplinary history or sanctions against a particular physician — for a price. In this case, $12.99.