Doctors have always had a love/hate relationship with the Internet, and some bristle at the fact that many patients now shop for caregivers in the same way they shop for restaurants and plumbers: using online review sites.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan says 25 percent of Americans now look online for doctor reviews before making an appointment. The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says a third of those people make a decision to see or not see a particular doctor based on reviews they read.
There are now 40 to 50 doctor-review sites for patients to choose from, the biggest among them being Healthgrades, RateMDs and Vitals. Also, general review sites such as Yelp also offer ratings for medical practices and specific physicians.
It gets better. The study shows that the doctors are nervously reading the reviews, too, and even changing parts of their bedside manner to avoid bad ratings.
Some doctors bristle at the idea of being reviewed Yelp-style. After all, medicine is a business where customer service is important, but it’s also a science. Doctors are often talkative during the “subjective” part of an exam, when patients are asked to describe their symptoms, but less conversant during the “objective” part, when they get down to the job of examining the patient in a scientific way.
Also, new technology in doctors offices may not help matters. With the new focus on real-time documentation of care in electronic health records, doctors can sometimes be preoccupied with their handheld computers. Patients can feel ignored.
And doctors sometimes simply must give patients bad news. Some doctors believe bad news in the exam room can cause bad feelings that turn into bad reviews on sites like Healthgrades.com.
But the review sites are on the minds of doctors. Both the Congress of OBGYNs and the American Psychiatric Association have held panel discussions about online reviews at recent meetings.