Reaching for the Stars
My job is not to necessarily make you happy. My job is not customer service. My job is to make you feel better, the best I can. Sometimes these ideas are in direct conflict with each other. Everyone has a story about an encounter with a physician whose social skills were less than ideal, which tends to tarnish the medical field as a whole. One would think that the explosion in online ratings would help to fix this and result in better care. After all, who would want to see a doctor with a 1 star rating when you can see a doctor with a 5 star rating?
Well, these ‘stars’ don’t tell the entire story. As I mentioned previously, sometimes what the patient wants and needs are two entirely different things. A patient who demands a MRI that is not medically indicated will leave the office unhappy and likely not rate their physician high. Because of this, the physician may be under pressure to give in and order the MRI to appease the patient and achieve a higher patient satisfaction rating. Unfortunately, this is a lose-lose situation for the physician. If the patient is unhappy, the physician will be rated poorly. If the physician orders the study, the patient’s insurance company will see that this physician ordered an un-necessary study and therefore also costs more to treat patients than other physicians do. The physician may then be placed under tighter restrictions/scrutiny by the insurance company. Not every test or medication is harmless. For example, the cavalier prescription of antibiotics for colds and benign respiratory conditions has led to the emergence of antibiotic resistant organisms. Pain medications have the potential for abuse and addiction. Some, including myself, feel that the desire to improve patient satisfaction scores (especially in hospitals) has directly contributed to the current prescription drug epidemic. Anti-inflammatory medications can cause life threatening bleeding, strokes, and heart attacks. Because of this, your physician may decline to provide you with a prescription, even though you may think you need one.
Some things are also out of the physician’s control. Most physicians today are employees of hospital corporations or large groups. Because of this, they have no control over the hiring or firing of the office staff. They have no control over the décor of the office. They have no control over how long it takes to book an appointment, process your paperwork, or return your phone call. Yet, these things are commonly part of the patient satisfaction survey. These items have nothing to do with the medical care you receive or the competence of your physician, yet your physician’s rating may be penalized because of things out of their control.
So what I am asking is that you have an open mind when reading practice/physician reviews. If there are 1 or 2 bad comments, but 25 good ones, you can feel comfortable knowing that the practice is likely a good choice. I would also be weary of a practice that has a 100% satisfaction rating, as this may be artificially inflated. No business can make 100% of its customers 100% happy 100% of the time. Try to read the comments and reviews in context, as people who are upset generally are more likely to write a review than those that are satisfied. I am not recommending ignoring the on-line ratings, as I use them myself to find physicians, but rather suggesting that you do your homework and keep all the information in perspective.
- Barreto JE, Whitehair CL. Social Media and Web Presence for Patients and Professionals: Evolving Trends and Implications for Practice. PM R. 2017 May;9(5S):S98-S105. PubMed PMID: 28527508