Embrace Physician Rating Sites, Improve Patient Experience

Marianne Aiello, August 18, 2010

Doctor rating sites have long been a contentious topic among hospital leaders, marketers, and clinicians. Most are wary, believing such sites are a popularity contest and don't give enough weight to quality of care and positive outcomes. But some understand that—like them or not—these sites are here to say and that the reviews contain valuable insight that can be used to improve care.

Tara Lagu, M.D., a healthcare researcher at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, belongs to the latter camp. She studies social networking as a tool in patient care and quality improvement and recently published a paper on consumer sites that rate doctors, according to The Boston Globe.

"From the patient side, I think social media really offer an opportunity to become engaged in the process of improving health care quality," she told The Globe. "Patient satisfaction is so important, and so far in our attempt to improve quality I think this has been an area we tend to think about the least."

And although patients may not be able to give much feedback into the clinical aspects of their care, their comments can help physicians understand a broader view of the patient experience.

"I think doctors don't recognize the whole patient experience, but patients do," she told the paper. "Whether the parking was accessible and whether the receptionist was polite and whether they got into the room and sat for 45 minutes or whether they were seen promptly and were able to communicate with the doctor in a way that was pleasing to them. It is notable we saw very few reviews saying they got the wrong diagnosis, or surgery was bad."

The interview with Lagu prompted me to do a little investigation of my own. I'm familiar with consumer rating and review sites such as Yelp and Rate My Professors, but I've never looked up a doctor. So I decided to search for my brother's spine surgeon, who's the head of pediatric orthopedics at a prominent Boston hospital. I searched for him on yelp.com, ratemds.com, drscore.com, and vitals.com—the top three results when I Googled "doctor ratings."

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