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1st Person: Are Doctor Ratings Sites Useful?


When it came time for Jennifer Stevens, an Omaha, Nebraska resident and mother of two, to find an obstetrician for her first baby, she was faced with a dilemma.

I wanted to ask around for a recommendation but I didn't want to tell anyone that I was pregnant yet. My gynecologist suggested a few physicians, but I wanted more information. I ended up on Google, looking at ratings. What I found were a lot of sites that gave stars, but I didn't know what those stars meant. I didn't know if it was just one person, or even the doctor themselves giving four stars or a lot of people. Stars are so subjective. For restaurant ratings, for instance, one person will go on and on about how great a place is and give it three stars, while another person won't like it and will still give it three stars. How can you decide based on that?

Ratings sites with patient testimonials were more helpful, giving her insight into specific people's experiences.

The patient ratings revealed more about the actual doctors themselves, who people liked and didn't like. But these ratings still didn't answer my questions about what to expect.

One of my main concerns was the degree to which these OBs would let me control how my labor would proceed. It was important to me to find a doctor who would let me go at my own pace and wouldn't push an epidural on me or rush to perform a C-section after three hours of labor because they had somewhere else to be. These ratings didn't tell me that.

Although Jennifer's ultimate experience with her doctor was very positive, there were details she would have included in a review that could have helped.

My doctor was a bit odd at first, but once I got past that, he turned out to be great. If I wrote a review, I would have encouraged others to push through that first impression.

Ultimately, the problem with testimonials and personal recommendations alike is that people want different things. While I didn't want a C-section, other women might prefer it. In the future, I would suggest a friend use a ratings site if it had patient reviews, but I'd let them know there's a lot of information they won't necessarily get until they see the doctor themselves.

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1st Person posts spotlight a patient’s or caregiver’s health care experience.

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Patient Engagement   Health Care Access   First Person   Find Good Health Care   Seek Knowledge about your Health   Inside Healthcare  

Comments on this post
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reachpatients says
January 2, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Great example of a patient experience with the doctor rating sites!

I think the more specific patients can be with what they want from a particular doctor, the better their experience in the office will be.

Unfortunately, most doctors are woefully behind when it comes to making themselves and their practices available and open online.

If you've found a doctor you like, my advice would be to make it clear to him or her 1) how you found them and 2) the benefit of having more detailed ratings or information out there so other patients can have the same experience.

I think the smart docs among us will slowly wake up to the fact that patients want as accurate as possible an introduction to us before their visit. It's difficult, but technology lets us get close.

My opinion, and what I tell my readers is to pro-actively ask patients for reviews - the more detailed the better. Even some not-so-glowing comments are great - it lets other prospective patients know the review is real and lets them make a better decision.

Thanks for sharing!

Dr. Henley