A common perceived philosophy in business is that the customer is always right. After all, the goal is to retain customers and make them happy. Unfortunately, this is not always the most appropriate thing to do, especially when it comes to healthcare. You may or may not have realized that healthcare has become a commodity and can even now be purchased in retail facilities right along with your shampoo, dog food, and bubblegum. Because of this, there is more and more competition for your business. In addition, numerous physician and practice rating sites have erupted online in attempt to help the consumer choose the best provider for their care. The intention behind this is good, however the reality is not so clear.
Remember, you are not shopping for a gizmo on Amazon. You are shopping for healthcare and ultimately the person who will be responsible for taking care of you. You may or may not have medical experience and likely will not have the same level of expertise as the specialist you are seeing. Because of this, you may not always agree with the treatment plan proposed. This is not to say that every treatment plan proposed by every single position is always appropriate, but many times a physician’s treatment plan does contradict what a patient wants to have done. For example, MRI imaging of the lumbar spine is not always necessary to help treat people who have low back pain. Furthermore, pain medications may not be the best choice, despite you feeling otherwise.
Unfortunately, any confrontation with the physician may lead to unintended consequences. Since there are numerous rating sites available, and these rating sites are open to the public, any dissatisfied customer can post a bad rating of the physician simply because they did not get what they want, even though it was not medically indicated or appropriate. Furthermore, some of these rating sites evaluate the physician on things that are out of his/her control. Things like office dÃ©cor, waiting time, and front desk staff are obviously important to your overall experience but do not reflect the quality of care delivered to you by the physician. Many physicians are feeling pressure because of this, and sometimes give in to patient desires despite it not being medically necessary to do so. Some physicians are even unwilling to perform procedures or surgery on high risk cases due to fears of negative outcomes, which may jeopardize their ratings.
I am not saying every physician is perfect, because they are not. There are obviously some which are better than others. I recommend that when reviewing a physician’s rating on-line you look at the whole picture and keep things in perspective. Remember, people with bad experiences are much more likely to write a review than those who had a good one. Look at all of the ratings and comments so you get a better idea of the situation. Was 1 rating out of 20 bad? If so, that is likely secondary to a dissatisfied customer. On the other hand, if 19 out of 20 ratings or comments are bad, then you should probably move on.
It comes down to using your best judgement, but making sure that your judgement is not skewed by inaccurate information.
- Samora JB, Lifchez SD, Blazar PE, American Society for Surgery of the Hand Ethics and Professionalism Committee.. Physician-Rating Web Sites: Ethical Implications. J Hand Surg Am. 2016 Jan;41(1):104-10.e1. PubMed PMID: 26304734