You are hereDoctor Rating Websites: How Should Consumers Rate Them?

Doctor Rating Websites: How Should Consumers Rate Them?

By harrisjensen - Posted on 12 August 2016

What Doctor Rating Websites Don't Say Might Interest You!

Secrets Make These Sites Unfair, Unbalanced...

Misunderstandings Abound Where Consumers Get Just One Side Of The Story...

Google Reviews, Healthgrades, Ucomparehealthcare, Ratemds Don't Tell The Whole Story!

by Harris Jensen, MD

Editor, Good Day Journal

Most consumers now days check out review websites for everything from buying music to picking a doctor.  Few take what they read at face value.

And there is good reason.

Reasonable--and unreasonable-- people can take many different points of view on the same issue and back it up with good sounding sentences. The question is: what's the truth?

Here's some things to keep in mind about these doctor rating web sites, the next time you visit one and see a negative review from a patient...things these sites rarely mention because it might make them appear less informative or (gasp!) manipulated by people with ulterior motives!  Oh gosh no, that could never happen!

1. Doctor patient confidentiality rules prevent doctors from even acknowledging a person is a patient of theirs, unless that person first signs a release of information form! Those handcuffs on doctors prevent them from replying to negative reviews even though the sites suggest doctors can do so!  They give the doctor a blank to fill in to make a response.  Here is the suggestion of a real open, fair and balanced process...when there is none!  What's more, one doctor said he had a review from an alleged patient, and he couldn't find any record of him ever seeing the person!  The rating was from a fictitious patient!  Don't look for these sites to say that happens any time soon!  How would you even check for that?

2. Few patients will sign a release form, releasing all their healthcare information (!) to the general public or the internet!  If they did, then the public could look at the documentation and draw their own conclusion. But they will go ahead and say why they think a certain doctor is bad.  Why don't these web sites allow patients to publicly post all their health records and let people come to their own conclusions?  Why don't they say doctor's hands are tied by the privacy laws? Bad for business?

3. Patients however are not restricted from releasing all their healthcare information to the internet on other websites. They are not restrained by doctor patient confidentiality rules because they are not the doctor!  Few people however are willing to let the public review their records and come to their own conclusions, for obvious reasons.  There are alot of crooks on the internet who could use private information for bad behavior.

4. Angry people often have underlying motives of revenge!  They don't want others to see facts that conflict with the facts or so called facts the upset patient is talking about.  Then their words wouldn't have the ring of truth!  Oh no!

5. The motivation of revenge often is never mentioned in the review, but motivations for revenge can include:

They refused to pay the doctor's bill.

They were sent to collections.

The doctor called police to deal with their harrassing behavior.

Insurance refused to pay the doctor's bill because they didn't pay on their policy and now they want the doctor to forgive the bill, even though they have money to pay their bill.

They are trying to control the doctor and get him to change the diagnosis.

They want addictive drugs and they are an addict! 

They have a history of violent behavior and legal problems and like to punish people (like the doctor) who are not doing what they want! 

They have potential ties to political groups that attack the American establishment.

They have legal problems and want to blame "the world" for their problems and the doctor symbolically represents the world.

Revenge is a great motivator in the rating web sites, but it is rarely mentioned.  Due to the doctor's hands being tied by confidentiality rules, doctor rating web sites lack the ability to fact check alleged patient's claims.  They generate traffic which generates some kind of profit for the sites, but that doesn't benefit the consumer.  Or does it?

One doctor protested reviews because there were obscenities, lies, half truths, as well as name calling and other online "attacking" behavior.  The site refused to change the review!  OK, now we are seeing some true colors come out!

So what are doctor rating web sites good for?

People can say what they want and act out their aggression, get a kind of "revenge" by attacking a doctor's reputation.  People can leave out facts and cover up a whole trail of deceit and half truths.  And unwitting readers can believe those negative reviews and then avoid a perfectly good doctor.

Where is the truth in "advertising" on these web sites?

One doctor estimated almost all the negative reviews he had on sites were from patients who skipped out on their bills.

What can doctors do to correct all the misinformation?  Not much!  What can consumers do to spot phoney reviews? Not much!

Which brings me back to my original question: how should doctor rating web sites be rated?

Well, that's not for me to say for you.

Some people need a place to complain, to vent their anger and frustration, and Lord knows life is full of suffering and inequities and unfairness and misunderstanding.  If they don't have a public place to ventilate they may act out in a violent manner.

Hey, rating sites are a great idea!

They are full of acting out and such, but what thinking person doesn't know that?  Social media is full of that.  Thinking people don't take anything on the internet at face value: that is foolish!

Rating sites get you thinking.  Maybe about misinformation, but it gets the thinking gears going.

Rating sites could have forums for doctors to list all the misinformation they see.

Point out ways facts can be left out conveniently.

Notice underlying motivations such as revenge, or maybe that this is a comment from a person they have never seen before!

Doctors could be invited to participate in some kind of dialogue, an "anonymous bulletin board," that would not let  the identity of their patients be made known.  Maybe not even the identity of the doctor.  Consumers are thoughtful, but my guess is many don't know how stories can be skewed.  Many don't know doctors can't participate in these supposedly open forums.

Banks deal with potential scams and frauds by issuing warnings.  Don't open suspicious emails.  Don't give away your identity to someone who calls you saying they are from thebank or IRS, etc.  Maybe doctor rating websites could tell people about ways to spot suspicious reviews and not to take them at face value.  Some kind of consumer protection education. 

Ways to spot fraudulent reviews:

1. The use of character attacking language, ie., "He's hateful."

2. Endless problems are listed, begging the question why did they stay with the doctor anyway?

3. Obscenities

4. Only one point of view is right.  No other point of view on a problem is even considered.

5. Obvious revenge motivations, relating to not prescribing an addictive drug, for instance.

6. High voltage rhetoric that suggests a potential for physical violence.

7. Ignoring obligations.  Patients usually sign an agreement to give feedback to doctors when problems start so they don't escalate.  Stories of escalating issues begs the issue.

8. Innocent victim card.  A patient says for a prolonged period of time they were given the wrong prescription or a prescription that didn't work.  Could it be they never told the doctor in the first place?

9. Endless repetition of problems.  "The doctor kept doing the wrong thing for an hour," etc.  Why didn't the patient just walk out of the room and find another doctor?

10. Unverifiable claims.  Lots of claims of terrible behavior that only the patient can know about, and no outside person can check the facts on.  Hmmm.

I think this kind of consumer protection and education would be greeted with lots of positive reviews by people visiting doctor rating web sites!  it would improve their credibility!  It's already being done for online banking and online dating sites.  People I tell about this are fascinated by all these interesting things that can be done by negative reviewers that  are.... sneaky. They had no idea all this sneakiness could go on!  Its like right out of some secret agent spy novel!