Googling Your Doctor

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The Cleveland Clinic recently began posting patient reviews of doctors on its website.  It’s one of only a handful of hospital systems across the country to do so. ideastream’s Anne Glausser has more on this trend.

To find a place to eat, you might turn to restaurant reviews on Yelp. If you’re shopping for a blender—maybe you’d check out Amazon’s online comments. And increasingly, people are turning to the internet for guidance on choosing a doctor. "Most physicians do have some sort of rating, whether they volunteer to have that rating or not, " said Dr. Chad Ellimoottil, a urologist and research fellow at the University of Michigan who studies this issue. 

He thinks it makes sense that people want an objective measure of their physician. And websites like Healthgrades.com or RateMDs.com have cropped up to fill that demand.

The problem with websites providing doctor reviews, say Ellimoottil and other physician groups, is that doctor ratings are often based on a small number of often unverified patient surveys. "If you don’t have a lot of reviews, then if you have 1-2 or angry patients, your review can swing pretty quickly," he said.

 A study out last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that about 60% of people polled said that online doctor ratings were at least somewhat important in making a decision about which doctor to see. So it doesn’t surprise Ellimootil that hospitals here in Northeast Ohio are starting to take ownership of the online physician review phenomenon. 

The Cleveland Clinic recently started posting patient reviews on its website, but only after a doctor has amassed 30 patient surveys. When a doctor’s reviews hit this threshold, there’ll be a 1 through 5 star rating as well as patient comments, such as “Love his bedside manner, very relaxing!”

"We did our homework about whether or not this was what patients really wanted and the answer was a resounding yes," said Dr. Adrienne Boissy, Chief Experience Officer for the Cleveland Clinic. She says that posting patient reviews—all of them, not cherry-picked —is the right thing to do, and a way for the hospital to take back control from those external websites with what she calls unreliable data.

University Hospitals and MetroHealth are also planning to make doctor reviews publicly available on each of their websites within the next several months. 

Only a handful of hospital systems in the country do this right now and Northeast Ohio’s hospitals say it puts them at the forefront of transparency in health care.

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