These sites, such as RateMDs, Vimo, and RevolutionHealth, offer patients an opportunity to rate physicians on their helpfulness, knowledge base, interpersonal skills, and punctuality. This has become a popular online activity, with hundreds of physician reviews appearing daily. Proponents of such sites view them as a form of customer feedback and see patients as consumers who have a right to express their opinions about services they pay for. Critics find the sites defamatory and fundamentally flawed. How can one be sure the person posting a review is really a patient and not someone with a grudge against the physician? If a physician disagrees with a particular comment, there is no opportunity for rebuttal: physicians are bound by privacy laws and a duty to preserve the confidentiality of patient information. Also, most rated physicians average a handful of ratings, which can hardly reflect the full range of impressions of a physician who sees hundreds of patients each year.1,2,3,4
I find one score for me on Vitals.com — a pathetic 2.5 out of 5 — but I don’t see any comments and can’t figure out whether this is an aggregate score. It looks as if I have to pay for further information, so I scan the results for my colleagues. Most are not rated, some got 1 out of 5, and one got 4 out of 5. I exit the site, deciding its offerings are not meaningful. A few more minutes of surfing reveals that my Internet reputation is intact. I am relieved.
Physicians offer multiple excuses or reasons for not wanting to engage the participatory medicine crowd or social media participants in general. Many docs have valid reasons… some *believe* they do and some probably aren’t even aware that social media exists.
Understanding the time constraints imposed by a busy clinical practice, a family, etc it is easy to see why many docs chose not to engage patients or the public online. Many are simply fearful… many simply might be interested, but do not know *how*.
It would be unreasonable to expect all physicians to be online and engaged.
But I caution each and every physician in clinical practice about ignoring the participatory movement. Patients are engaged, they are out there, they *get it* and they are talking, teaching, learning and sharing. They are also starting to rate physicians and institutions…. while the numbers of ratings for most physicians has not quite caught on, it just might….
The only way physicians will be able to learn about what their patients are saying about them is to occasionally scan various sites… or pay someone else to do it. Ignoring comments, or worse, trends of unhappy patients posting to sites like Health Grades and Vitals and they risk losing control of a situation that earlier could have been dealt with without significant long term damage to their reputation and perhaps their livelihood.
I have worked with many physicians and groups to improve their understanding of social media and the participatory medicine movement… A little knowledge, and a little effort goes a long way.
Feel free to email me for further assistance hjluks AT gmail DOT com.