Evaluations are difficult for everyone. Professionals, whether lawyers, teachers or physicians, bristle at being rated in comparison to others. As a college instructor and as a seminar leader, I’m used to evaluations by students, as well as occasional administrative reviews. Usually they’re benign, sometimes they’re helpful. Throw in the social networking culture on the Internet, and websites have popped up for consumers to comments about anything–local business (e.g., Angie’s List), college instructors, restaurants, and now physicians.
Forbes magazine asked, “What would Hippocrates do?” If a patient slams a physician, Forbes asks, how do doctors defend themselves?
Several websites, including RateMDs, Yelp and Revolution Health now include consumer ratings. One patient on Yelp told of their saga with one physician, writing, “I hate to be dramatic but this is the only doctor (and as many people can say, I have had some horrifying experiences with the Industry that is Western Medicine) that actually made me cry in his office in front of staff and patients… which says a lot for someone who really doesn’t do the crying thing.” On the other hand, one happy patient wrote, “Dr. D*** explains everything very clearly without being patronizing, and he listens to your questions, concerns, and suggestions.”
Comments and opinions are just that, and generally are protected free speech. The best forum and vehicle to get your message out, and to confront criticism, is your own website. Obviously, you cannot discuss specifics of a patient, even if the patient is the one criticizing you. But you can listen to criticism, and make changes. Others see us differently than we see ourselves, so we need someone who will be open with us. Look at these sites as invaluable–and free– market research.
I once had a client who did a patient satisfaction study and the results were, well, OK. Unfortunately, the doctors chose to spin the findings so that the practice could dismiss them as unreliable. One message that came through was that the staff were viewed as being distant. Funny thing was, other doctors– including those who referred to them–had similar feelings.
Much of a physician’s effectiveness comes from his or her ability to gain a patient’s confidence and trust, and to be able to communicate with the patient. From the patient’s perspective, these sites offer access to information on quality and service, the same information they can now get about a car before entering the showroom. Look at these sites as free market research, one tool to help you be as effective as possible in working with patients, families and other providers.