Need a New Doctor. Don’t Count on Rating Sites

Have you ever been referred to a doctor and wondered whether the doctor would be a good fit?

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday, telling me that he is going to a new specialist, referred by his primary care physician. He knew nothing about the doctor. He googled his address on Google maps. Surrounding the building on Google were diametrically opposed ratings of the specialist:

First Reviewer:

“BEST DOCTOR EVER!!! Whoever says otherwise, has never been to a professional doctor. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you want Dr. X and his staff looking after you. I was his patient for 18 years and had to relocate to Fl and let me tell you I still traveled back and forth for nine years at least three times a year to see him. He kept me alive when every other doctor told me I only had five years. Thanks to him I’ve seen my children grow up to be adults. I’ve been able to have a normal life again and still have dreams of the future. I owe him my deepest thanks and my life, miss you lots doc. TY”

Second Reviewer:

“He is a MORON. After an initial exam of 1 minute, he told me I had pseudogout. I was in unbearable pain. Never did a sed rate or CRP. Didn’t listen to me…I went to him for about a one point he told me I had TB of the kidney…this is a horrible man..should not practice medicine. I finally went to an orthopedic doc who diagnosed me with reactive arthritis. I wrote a long letter to Albany about him. There are much better docs out there than this.”

My friend wrote: “I guess this is typical.”He went to the doctor and was noncommittal about his assessment.

Finding Useful Physician Reviews

The larger question here is where can patients find high-quality reviews of doctors on issues that matter to them? How do you control for who the reviewers are? How do you know whether a review is written by a sock puppet (a fake review)? Or whether a doctor’s publicist mounted a campaign for good reviews? Or whether some doctor just had a bad day? What kind of information would you like if you are looking for a new doctor that you don’t see? What rating schemes would be most helpful?

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4 Responses to Need a New Doctor. Don’t Count on Rating Sites

  1. That’s a tough question. My BF used a rating system to finalize an opinion of a surgeon he was referred to for his open heart surgery. Big stuff. I don’t think he delved into this deep enough. But he liked that his doc got good ratings, and compared that to the poor ratings he’d seen on his current general practictioner–not good. And he agreed. So he considered the ratings system reliable. I’m more of a fan of the personal reference, and he received several of those–all high remarks for the surgeon. The surgery now past, he’s doing well, I’d say I’m still a fan of the personal reference over the ratings system. At the same time, I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea for him to rate his surgeon on one of those sites, provided he shared anecdotes and not just numbers on a scale of 1 to 5 (example).

  2. Laura Newman says:

    For something as big as cardiac surgery, some states (NY, Pennsylvania, for example) release cardiac surgery outcomes reports. There has been some controversy about them, but if I were considering cardiac surgery, I’d look them over. They are usually put together by an objective group, such as the State Department of Health, rather than proprietary ratings groups. For complex surgery, studies have shown that volume is important so I would want to know how many procedures a doctor has done. Even so, doctors in NYC have complained that they get burned in these reports, arguing that they take more complex cases and patients who may not do so well.

  3. Dolores Rogers says:

    A profoundly complex issue. Respondents with extremely positive and negative experiences, otherwise unknown, are difficult to trust. Good to have state ratings and volume to testify experience. Might trust those in a group practice where exchanges can take place, rather than solo practitioners defending income.
    Good to have the subject bared.

  4. Blair Bolles says:

    Good post. New York Times has a story on what a racket ratings and reviews can be:

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