Monday, March 29, 2010

Melissa Young, MD: Selection bias on physician rating sites

A couple of weeks ago, a patient from my prior practice said that she Googled me to find my new location. She said that in addition to finding my new address, she also found my practice address, and an article about me that had been written while I was at my old office.

Out of curiosity, I decided to Google myself. I found the above links, but I also found links to physician rating sites. I clicked on them to see how patients were rating me. I found that almost without exception, I had either no ratings or very poor ratings.

At first glance, my one-star ratings in nearly every category make me look like a horrible physician with no bedside manner, whom no one would recommend to family or friends. I also apparently had incompetent, discourteous staff. But a closer reveals that there is only one rating. One rating by a very angry patient. One who thinks I need “to learn to be a human.”
Read more
These ratings were all dated (where available) in the spring of last year. I can only assume that they were made by the same person. One Web site had two ratings. One with single stars across the board, dated in the spring of last year, and one with four to five stars, dated within the last three to four months.

Now, personally I don’t care if one or two disgruntled patients rate me poorly. I suspect they are noncompliant and possibly were dismissed from my practice. But other patients might care, patients who may assume that these ratings represent how most of my patients feel about me. And what happens if the payers start caring?

Who is going to take the time to go to theses sites to rate a physician? Most satisfied patients don’t feel the need to rate their physicians. Even at the best restaurants, I’m sure the kitchen hears more complaints then praise. How many store managers have customers call about an employee’s good job? And how many get calls about a bad job?

Oh sure, there are customers who will let an employer know when someone goes above and beyond, but for the most part, satisfied people don’t feel it necessary.

And the same goes for physician rating sites. I have patients I have treated for years. Some who moved out of state who still come to see me. I have new patients who used to see other docs but have chosen to see me because I have seen their neighbor, coworker, friend, or relative, and have been told that they will like me and my practice better.

Would they do that if I needed “to learn to be a human”? Referrals like that beat online ratings any day.

1 comment:

  1. You discuss some very valid concerns that I hear often, Dr. Young. These online rating systems can quickly become a problem and even a patient deterrant if they are not properly handled. I'd recommend looking to generate some positive content of your own, via your website, social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, and even suggesting a few loyal patients of yours to go online and rate their experience with you and your staff. If you can begin to drive some of the content that comes up on an online search for your name, the one or two negative comments will not be near as powerful anymore. Thanks for sharing and discussing this important issue!