One of the benefits of online doctor rating — a benefit to patients and doctors — is a transparency of medical care quality that will help people identify the bad doctors, the uncaring ones, the ones who, according to some patients, you wouldn’t send your dog to. Patients aren’t the only ones who know about these doctors. Doctors know about them too. They have seen patients who were seen by these colleagues, and all of those patients were unhappy with the care they received.
I know that online doctor rating isn’t going to find many such doctors. In fact, quite the opposite, online rating of physicians is going to show there aren’t nearly so many “bad doctors” out there as people think there are. Let me explain.
I’m a practicing dermatologist. I see patients who have seen another dermatologist in town, maybe a dozen or so of that doctor’s patients. Every one of those patients was unhappy with the care they received, and none of those patients received treatment that cured their condition.
Now that’s clear evidence the other dermatologist didn’t know what they were doing, right?
No, not right. You see, every time that other dermatologist clears up his or her patient’s rash and gives his or her patient a medical care experience the patient is happy with, that patient continues seeing the other dermatologist and doesn’t come see me. I see that doctor’s outliers, the occasional patient who, for whatever reason, didn’t get better or who was unhappy. I’m sure that the other dermatologist sees a few of my former patients too, only the ones whom I didn’t cure, only the ones who were unhappy with me. Our observations give us a misleading picture of other people.
Well what about those doctors whose patients post comments like, “I wouldn’t send my dog to that doctor?” That kind of comment does happen, and, sadly, I’m sure that’s the true opinion of the patient who makes that comment. But those comments are generally not anywhere close to representative of what the vast majority of that doctor’s patients think. I get comments like that at times (thankfully less often than I used to, having learned from patient satisfaction feedback what I was doing wrong). I’ve been rated over 500 times on DrScore.com. The average of those scores is 9.1 out of 10 (not bad, according to my mom). Still, occasional patients give me a 0 or a 1 for their experience. I know they may think everyone gives me a 0 or 1, that I’m a “bad doctor,” but the great majority of my patients think I’m a 9 or 10. So far, that’s true for all the doctors with just 10 or more ratings on DrScore.
There may be “bad doctors” out there, but I suspect they are incredibly rare. There weren’t any in my medical school class, and I have yet to meet one in person. If there are any, I hope we do smoke them out with online ratings. If they exist, maybe the online scrutiny will wake them up to the need to improve the quality of care they offer.