One of the issues with online doctor rating sites is that it is very much a one-sided affair. In other businesses, if a customer made a complaint online, the business would be able to respond. Not so on doctor ratings sites. The patient privacy rules in the HIPAA legislation preclude physicians from even acknowledging someone is their patient, so physicians have no ability to respond if they feel there is an inaccurate post about the care they offer.
This seems unfair to many physicians, and I do agree. Fortunately, the vast, vast majority of patients are very, very happy with their doctors and their care.
The unlevel playing field problem is exacerbated by the possibility that someone with a personal grudge against a physician could purposefully try to harm the physician’s reputation. It could be a competitor, an angry former spouse or a patient who felt vindictive for some reason. While one advantage of an anonymous online feedback system is that it lets patients feel they can give fully open and honest feedback without risk of reprisal, anonymous systems have the potential for abuse, too.
Perhaps there could be a rules change that would let a physician respond if a patient opens the door to a discussion of the care they received. But I find that possibility to be unlikely, especially given all the benefits of strong rules about patients’ privacy. Some physicians may consider other avenues, like those offered by Medical Justice.
But there is another approach, which is to do what DrScore does: Don’t post open comments at all.
And actually, I think the best solution is to just get every patient to rate his or her doctor online. That way, even if one patient does say something bad, the public can see what other patients think in order to determine if the negative comment was an outlier or was really representative of what the doctor was like.