Online doctor reviews and ratings are becoming a more popular resource for helping you choose a doctor. Just like you can find out how good a plumber is, or find reviews of a restaurant you may choose, or even gain some insight on the little boutique on the corner.... There are places online where you can share your opinion about the care you received from your doctor, or use others' opinions to help you choose the right doctor for you.
But how trustworthy can an online doctor review be? A review written in haste, or in anger, for example, won't be helpful to the patient who trusts it, and could even be harmful.
A well-considered and fairly crafted review can be helpful. Here is some advice for deciding whether to write a review, and if you decide to move forward, how to write that review to be sure it is measured, considered, useful - and fair.
Should You Rate Your Doctor?
While it may be an easy decision to review a new restaurant, you should give a second thought to whether it's a good idea to review your doctor.
Remember that once your review is published, someone else is going to use your words to determine whether they should seek treatment from the doctor. That's a much bigger responsibility than helping determine whether someone should dine at a restaurant; in fact, it could be a life or death decision.
Before you review a doctor, ask yourself whether what you have to say should be used by someone to make a decision that could affect their health or their life, either positively or negatively, and whether you are willing to accept that responsibility.
Are you writing the review because you are angry? While anger may be very appropriate, your anger itself won't help someone else. There are better outlets for your anger than online reviews, like contacting the doctor directly, contacting your local medical society or your state licensing board.
Are you writing the review because you want to do so? Or did the doctor ask you to, but you are uncomfortable doing so? I've heard several stories about doctors who have asked patients to file reviews even before they leave the doctor's office (on a tablet, like an iPad). Those patients feel cornered. That's just not right.
We've also heard about doctors who offer discounts on their medical services for patients who write positive public reviews online. The more stars they give the doctor, the higher their discount. The doctor calls it an incentive. I call it bribery.
If you feel pressured or bribed to write a review, then you should seriously consider changing doctors.
Once You Decide to Write a Review of Your Doctor
Here are some guidelines for doing it right, and well, so that you can be fair to the doctor and your review can be useful to other patients:
- Check out the many doctor review websites to see which one(s) ask the questions you think should be answered. A site that asks about the appearance of the waiting room as one of the criteria that is equal to how well the doctor communicated with you isn't worth the time it takes to write the review. Be sure the criteria being measured are important aspects of your care.
- Remember that your doctor as a person, and your doctor as a practitioner, are actually two different things. Don't mix up her personality with her capabilities, including - no name calling. Name calling belongs in middle school, not in a doctor review. And remember that nice does not equal competent - and a competent doctor isn't measured by how nice he or she is. Your doctor might be a great guy, nice as can be, but that doesn't mean he has diagnosed you correctly or given you good medical advice.
On the other hand, just because a doctor is curt, uses medspeak, or stares at the computer instead of looking at you, doesn't mean she doesn't know what she's doing, or isn't providing the medical advice you need. However, it may mean he is not a good communicator, and if you don't understand what you've been told, then that's definitely a negative for you. In any review you write, be fair about personality vs capability.
- Avoid generalities. Talk about your experience specifically and objectively. "The drug she prescribed didn't work and it turned out she had misdiagnosed me" is a good description of an experience. But "This doctor doesn't know what she's doing" is not. "This doctor was able to diagnose me after six months of bad experiences with other doctors" is a good description of your experience. "This doctor is a genius at diagnosing his patients" is not.
Remember, too, that there is a thin line between accurate negativity and defamation. There have been a handful of lawsuits brought against patients by doctors over less-than-flattering reviews. To date, the patients have prevailed in those suits, but it is probably only a matter of time before a line is crossed and a doctor triumphs. Make sure you aren't the patient who finds herself on the short end. Accurately describe your own experience, don't try to generalize about other patients, and leave the adjectives about your emotions out of the review.
- Be short and succinct. While the tiny details that explain the extent of your medical problem are important to you, it's only the bigger picture conclusion that is important to someone else. Other patients don't need to know exactly what your thyroid test results were over the past year to understand a simple statement that they were read or translated incorrectly, or that you were given the wrong test.
- Finally, be sure you come to a conclusion, and keep it specific, if possible. "If you want a refill on your pain pills, don't ask Dr. Wilson because he won't refill pain pill prescriptions early."or "Dr. Anderson has helped me deal with my fibro." Statements like those will be helpful to the people who have similar medical problems to yours, but won't have a negative impact on someone with a different problem.
While the jury is still out on how useful online doctor reviews can be when it comes to choosing a doctor, those ratings will be far more useful and relevant when there are large numbers of them to average out the overly-good and overly-bad ones.
By making sure your review is fair and objective, you'll be contributing to the usefulness of online doctor reviews.