Doctor ratings need to be physician driven

Doctor ratings need to be physician driven

In the new book, Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation, physician ratings are highlighted.  This is a topic that gives many physicians some pause, and for some, causes tremendous anxiety.

Whether doctors know it or not, they already have online profiles. Third-party rating sites, like Vitals or Healthgrades, already have web pages of most physicians, and they rank high on a Google search.   But what they contain is often out of the control of many doctors.

It’s no wonder that doctors worry about how they’re portrayed online. More patients are Googling their physicians.  According to a 2011 study from Pew Internet, 44% of Internet users look online for information about doctors or other health professionals.  I’ve been keeping track of how new patients find me, and about 10 to 15% of these patients say it’s because of my online presence: my blog, LinkedIn profile, or activity on Twitter, for instance.

An online reputation is just as important as a reputation in the community.  It’s time for doctors to take control of physician ratings.

Consider what the University of Utah Health Care system has done.  Earlier this year, they started posting results of Press Ganey surveys online, accompanying their physician profiles.  Their rating system is similar to popular 5-star scales found on competing sites, with an average physician rating is 4.7 stars out of 5:

Doctor ratings need to be physician driven

More importantly, ratings show up prominently on a Google search:

Doctor ratings need to be physician driven

Every medical system in the country should embrace online reviews.  This solves two problems.  First, studies show that many physician rating sites have scant number of reviews for doctors.  Drawing from over 40,000 patient surveys, the University of Utah makes ratings more useful for patients by providing more data for them to consider when choosing a physician.   Second, many physicians fear slanderous or negative comments online.  Studies show that physician ratings are better than most doctors think, and that’s evident in the University of Utah system with most physician ratings being closer to a “5” on the 5-star scale.

Healthcare transparency isn’t going away.  Rather, it will only grow in importance.  Instead of leaving physician ratings in the hands of third-party companies, who have business interests that may not align with those of doctors’, hospitals and physicians themselves need to embrace transparency and stop letting themselves be defined online.

Doctor ratings need to be physician driven.

Doctor ratings need to be physician drivenKevin Pho is co-author of Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. He is founder and editor of, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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  • Suzi Q 38

    I think this is a good idea. Except I have a few questions: How are the patients chosen for the Press-Ganey surveys? Can the physician control who is sent one in the mail? Can he/she make sure that an unhappy patient does not receive one? Or is this completely random, generated by HR or the marketing department?

    I usually get one if it has been a pleasant visit.
    I notice I don’t get one if I have had a less than pleasant medical exam.

    I probably will do this soon, but I have to get my facts straight, be clear on what is good and what is not so good about the doctors, and why I am posting it.

    Am I doing it because I am vindictive and want to get even for what I have suffered at their incompetence, ignorance, or bad manners? Possibly. On the other hand, I have filled out these with the best possible scores for a particular doctor.

    • Beau Ellenbecker

      Its completely random and usually not a large sample size. A lot of providers have only 4-5 responses a month so one bad response and one average can make you look pretty middle of the road even if the other three are all good. Bad responses by the way tend to be do to patient not getting what they want rather than actually getting poor care.

      • Suzi Q 38

        Thanks for clarifying. I can see how this can happen.
        If a patient doesn’t get the antibiotic or pain med, then the doctor gets a 1 or a 2 average.

        As for me, I needed an antibiotic because the lab said that I had a UTI. I called my urologist to let him know that the lab in my city said I had one, and the surgery tech said I needed an antibiotic for a few days before my upcoming surgery.
        The urologist refused to give me an antibiotic, saying that I only had slight symptoms. He was a royal PITA.
        I finally decided to get around it by calling my PCP, who went ahead with a prescription of Cipro.

        The urologist was kind of “nasty” and told his nurse to tell me that this was how he did things, and that was that. No RX.
        If I didn’t like how he did things, I could choose another doctor on staff. A little cranky, but O.K. I can find another urologist tomorrow.
        It was just that I did not have time to argue with the teaching hospital staff at a different hospital. They said I had to have an antibiotic in me. Good thing that my PCP trusts me.

        After I was done with my surgery, I requested another urologist, since I thought that was what he wanted me to do.
        Needless to say, the patient advocacy department did it for me, and his boss said “no way,” LOL. You two “work it out.”

        Had I been asked to fill out the form at the time, this guy would have gotten 2′s and 3′s based solely on the fact that he did not want to help me by trying to find out how he could facilitate my surgery, if the RX was holding it up. Also, he basically told me to find another doctor, and no one had done that before.
        Oh. Well. Would he really expect me to give him 5′s?

        For me the RX had about 20% to do with my evaluation of him. The other 80% had more to do with his lack of understanding for an ill patient that had a problem with clearing a surgery that he could have helped me with.
        He could have asked his nurse to have the tech at the hospital provide a copy of my urinalysis results. Anything to help his patient or to get the job done so that I could procede with a much needed surgery.

        The next time we saw each other was a couple of months after the surgery. He was pleasant and we worked it out, but I would not give him 5′s. No way.

        • SarahJ91

          I’m trying to figure out why the hospital recommending the antibiotic didn’t zap a prescription for it to your pharmacy. What’s up with that?

          My husband had emergency surgery last year. The cardiac surgeon was such a jerk, refusing to answer questions (like “Who’s the general surgeon?”) we threw him out. The head of the department worked things out so the surgery was done.

          Afterwards the cardiac surgeon was not exactly Mr. Personality, but he was okay. I realized he had been “in the zone,” just ready to step into the OR when we met him. He was probably like an athlete just before a game. That’s a good place for him to be at that time. But it might be best if they didn’t send him in for a bedside chat at that moment.

          Patients and doctors can often work things out if you leave them to it and/or have a third party mediate a bit.

          • Suzi Q 38

            You make a good point. For that matter, my neurosurgeon or my neurologist at the teaching hospital could have called in the RX at my local pharmacy.
            Ironically, my pharmacist of 6 years is married to the CEO of the teaching hospital I selected, LOL. I didn’t know this until I saw his picture in the elevator of the hospital, inviting employees to a meeting.

            I dreamed of him pulling my file and giving me the gift of “VIP status.”
            I knew that would never happen, as he would never do that.
            The pharmacist is a walking Press-Ganey sore seeker.

            She doesn’t mean to be, but she is truly interested in what a patient thinks about their hospital.

          • southerndoc1

            The ONLY doctor who should have prescribed an antibiotic was the one who ordered the test. Trying to drag in all these other docs is a recipe for big-time mistakes

          • Suzi Q 38

            What is a P4P score? Thanks for your input.
            I haven’t received the Press Ganey form yet, but you certainly made me think about it in a different way.
            I guess I also wanted him to be more helpful.
            I certainly didn’t expect him to ask me to find someone else, LOL. If you do that, “the gloves” come on, and an adversarial doctor/patient relationship sets in.

  • Gisele

    This is an area, that of ratings and reviews of providers, that is woefully lacking compared to virtually any other segment in our economy. In almost any other area, I can compare and contrast businesses, providers, and individuals that offer services. I only hope that this changes soon as transparency is sorely lacking in much of this industry.

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