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Here’s DrScore’s latest news release on data collected about seniors rating doctors online. http://bit.ly/bBo7rg

Online rating of doctors is a relatively new thing.  DrScore, one of the first doctor rating Web sites, has now been collecting data for seven years.  Online doctor ratings are used by patients to assess what patients think of their doctors and, importantly, to give feedback to doctors on what doctors and their staff are doing well and what they can do better.

Older Americans are among the most frequent users of medical care.  In the United States, about one in four medical office visits are by patients 65 and older.*  Over half the medical office visits are by people age 45 and higher.  The quality of medical care is of prime importance to older Americans.

We analyzed data from the DrScore.com Web site to find out which patients are most likely to rate their doctors.  Most of the online ratings come from younger people.  While 55 percent of offices visits are by people 45 years old or older, these patients account for only 15 percent of doctor ratings.  Young adults (age 18-44) are about 30 times as likely to rate their visit to the office as are people 65 years of age or older!

There may be several reasons why older patients, the ones who would benefit most from enhancing the quality of medical care, aren’t participating in online doctor rating more often.  Access to the Internet may be one factor, though Internet access is rapidly increasing among seniors.  Another possibility is that seniors may have a different attitude about doctors than younger people do; many seniors may not feel it is there place to tell a doctor how they felt about the quality of the office visit.  If true, this is disappointing, as seniors have special needs that doctors need to be aware of.

Seniors know the importance of voting in political contests.  Rating doctors isn’t altogether different, as doctors need to hear seniors’ voices to know how to tailor their medical services to best meet the needs of their senior patients.

*Data on U.S. medical office visits were obtained from the National Ambulatory Medical Care survey performed by the National Center for Health Statistics.

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One way that recent health care reform legislation is supposed to help improve care while lowering costs is by encouraging more preventive care services to be offered. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new preventive health benefits created under the Affordable Care Act for seniors and persons with disabilities covered by Medicare.

Click here to learn more about these benefits.

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One concern friends have occasionally shared with me about DrScore is that senior citizens, among the more common users of Medical care, might not use DrScore because they don’t use the Internet. Those friends may not recognize how pervasive the Internet is. Of course, even if some seniors don’t use the Internet, it’s likely others in their family do, so even non-Internet users may still be able to rate doctors and look up doctor ratings with the help of their family.

I found information in the December 2009 AARP magazine to be very encouraging. The AARP reported survey findings that 68 percent of people age 50-64 and 38 percent of people age 65 and over use the Internet to research information. That means there are plenty of seniors in a position to give their doctors feedback and to make use of DrScore ratings.

With time, those numbers will only increase. As the Internet becomes more pervasive, not only will the public make greater and greater use of DrScore, but more and more physicians will see the value in replacing “stone age” paper surveys with Internet-based collection of patient satisfaction information. 

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