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Writing in USA Today, Dr. Kevin Pho, author of the KevinMD.com blog, described how he thinks online doctor rating can be made better.  His first suggestion is for doctors to encourage patients to do online ratings.  I could not agree more.  By getting more data on doctors into the public realm, patients will get a more accurate picture of how well doctors are doing.  Patients will also be giving doctors the feedback doctors need to give patients the best possible care.

Dr. Pho’s second suggestion is to prohibit anonymous ratings.  Here, I have to disagree with the good doctor.  Letting patients make their comments anonymously gives patients the freedom to give honest—both positive and negative—feedback without concern for reprisal.  Doctors need honest feedback, and the relationship between patients and doctors can be so intimidating for patients that they may not feel comfortable giving open feedback if it isn’t anonymous.

I appreciate Dr. Pho’s concerns about the downside of anonymity.  There are benefits and risks.  Given what we’ve actually seen from ratings on DrScore, the benefits far outweigh the risks.  Despite Dr. Pho’s concerns about the potential for ratings to be manipulated by patients with a grudge, the average score of doctors with 10 or more ratings is well over 9 out of 10.

Let’s encourage all patients to rate their doctors.  Any grudge will be drowned out by having more representative sampling.

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I very much enjoy reading Dr. Kevin Pho’s articles.  Today I read his article, “Online doctor ratings aren’t very helpful” online in USA Today. He asks, “Can patients reliably choose a good doctor online?”

I guess one could ask a simpler question, “Can patients reliably choose a good doctor?”  I think the answer to that question is an unequivocal “yes!”  There are great doctors all across the United States.  Does online information help?  The answer again is “yes, certainly.”

State medical boards across the country give people information on doctors’ training and malpractice judgments. The American Board of Medical Specialties gives the public information on doctors’ board certification online, too, at abms.org. (To learn more about the ABMS, listen to ABMS president Dr. Kevin Weiss on the Getting Better Health Care radio program.

Then, there is the question of online doctor rating sites.  Online rating could be a powerful tool, and Dr. Pho makes a great point that doctors should encourage their patients to do online ratings.  Over 1,000 doctors are already encouraging their patients to do online ratings at www.DrScore.com, and, as Dr. Pho rightly notes, the average doctor with 20 or more ratings has a rating of over 9 out of 10.  That’s right, the average doctor—average—is a 9.3 out of 10.  Even “below average doctors” are still very, very good doctors when it comes to patient satisfaction.

Working in medicine, that doesn’t surprise me, because every day I see doctors with an extraordinary commitment to training, to skills and to giving patients great medical care.

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