Doc Execs Give Consumer Ratings Sites an ‘F’

Forget about consumer Web sites that rate doctors, such as Vitals.com, Healthgrades.com, Ratemeds.com, and the famed Angieslist.com. Forget about recognized and respected outside auditors, such as the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Joint Commission, and Press Ganey. Physician executives at hospitals, group practices, and hospital systems pay the greatest attention to internal ratings, with 93 percent reviewing such feedback, according to a survey by the American College of Physician Executives.

Meanwhile, only 12 percent of 730 physician respondents believe that consumer ratings Web sites offer any value. Here’s some feedback: “I think most patients who take the time to complete it have not had a good experience. Sampling bias.” Also this: “I deal with so many drug addicts and psychiatric patients that have the time and motivation to hurt me online that it’s not worth the aggravation to even look; it will just upset me.”

Still, the Web sites cause concern. The survey, published in Physician Executive Journal  (registration required), notes that respondents realize that no matter how much they dislike consumer ratings, they are a reality. “As value replaces volume as the measurement of health care outcomes, ratings are here to stay.”

Physician executives hold the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Joint Commission, and Press Ganey in higher regard than the consumer sites, but they’re far from being true believers. Forty-one percent describe themselves as being neutral about them, while 14 percent consider them a waste of time.

Reaction: “They are not accurate. Very small sample can give a poor-quality physician four stars and an excellent physician half a star.” And “There are limitations to their usefulness because of how the data are obtained and the questions asked of patients.”

The report states, “Overall, most of the physician leaders who participated in the survey said they were very wary of outside attempts to rate physicians.”

On the other hand, they like the internal ratings because they offer accountability. One respondent said, “Physicians tend to overestimate their compliance with guidelines, for example. The data are valuable in creating realistic self-awareness.” And “We often delude ourselves about how we are performing. It is good to see real information.”

The topic of physician ratings provokes strong emotions. The survey notes that “Some were deeply pessimistic and predicted a future where a physician’s livelihood would be dependent on the whims of patients who care more about ease of parking than quality of care.”

One survey respondent wrote: “We should set up sites where peers rate each other. Consumer ratings sites tend to attract either unhappy consumers or shills giving themselves great reviews.”


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