The Utility of Physician Review Websites

One of the recent comments on this blog was in response to my post about whether patients should be able to direct their care. The “cyberchondriac” patient who comes armed with the latest and greatest in treatment options also reminds me of the patient who has done lots of research about his physician online. The advent of websites that “review” doctors and “score” them based on patient-physician interactions, impressions of care, or outcomes are a new thing that many doctors do not know what to do about.

Now more than ever physicians are being faced with the complete 360 degree evaluation of themselves. This evaluation comes from all directions. Insurance companies evaluate physicians in the form of denials, hospitals evaluate physicians in the form of peer reviews, patients evaluate physicians in the form of outcomes and overall patient-physician interactions. And now, we are being evaluated on the internet for all to see.

The truth of the matter is that there is not much we can do about it. It is essentially the era of the consumer patient and the freedom of information on the internet is merely a confirmation of that. But the problem with most physicians is that we are a hypersensitive bunch. We have become physicians through a ton of hard work, several admissions processes, countless hours of study, and massive personal and financial sacrifice. We seek praise and thus we don’t like it when people talk about us publicly.

The problem with physician websites is that they are just like any other review site. Whether it be for restaurants or hotels, you will undoubtedly have the consumer who thought it was a messy hotel room and that the food was disgusting. There is also the rare but enchanted consumer who loves everything about his meal and stay. There is no standard “Zagat’s” score for the physician and even if there was, it would undoubtedly contain many metrics that physicians have no control over.

The main difference between reviewing other businesses and physicians is that patient outcomes often have nothing to do with a physician but more to do with the patient. Many diseases are incurable and chronic and human behavior and genetics are at the root of many medical problems. Thus, patients who do not have great clinical outcomes are not the biggest fans of their doctors or the medical system. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of patients out there with debilitating diseases who do not get better but still love their doctors. However, this is not the norm.

Physician reviews? We as physicians must welcome both criticism and praise. We must always know that at the end of the day, not matter what patients do or say, whether they are nice or mean, we are the ones who are looking out for them. That is what we signed up for. We can’t take it personally. We need to view everything as constructive and drown out the background noise.

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