Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Lawyers Won't Help, But This Might

There's been a lot of talk here and elsewhere about callous, mean or stupid doctors. An article in the Times today has a pretty good discussion of the topic. They also provide a link to a site where patients can rate their doctors.

I have mixed feelings about the rating site. I think it's a great idea in general, and I believe it has the potential to change physician behavior. However, it's not at all clear that it's reliable in any meaningful way. First, you can't tell who is managing the site (and whoever it is, they don't proofread carefully). Second, the site allows advertising, which makes me suspicious. Third, it doesn't appear that they vet the ratings at all. I tried it out by rating one of my doctors; I was able to do this without creating an account, and my rating appeared instantly. There is a way to flag ratings or listings you feel are suspect, but since it's entirely anonymous, there's no way to tell if someone has, for instance, padded his or her own rating. (No, I didn't rate myself.) Finally, I expect the site will be heavy on the doctors that serve the educated (and in my opinion overtreated) patients who have easy access to the web. Most of my patients won't have the opportunity to make use of it.

But it's a start, and perhaps will help doctors start thinking about whether they are being good instead of whether they might be sued.


Siren said...

Figured I would check out your blog- Momma to mama.
I agree that there are categories of the overtreated, overmedicated as well. I think we have a sad disparity between those that get little care and those that take a pill for the slightest little malady. Often people are also resistant to lifestyle changes, turning to medicine to fix their problems.
Glad to know we share an affinity for lactation, another issue that can be linked to medicine and prevention. Ah well. Enough ranting!

MFA Mama said... always, I appreciate your insight from "the other side." Now, I have a RATING to type up...

B.E.C.K. said...

Hmm. Interesting site. I agree that it has some flaws, but it's a start. I noticed that two of the doctors I dealt with during my pregnancy and delivery were listed. The doctor who actually delivered my son has since lost his license due to a surgical mistake on someone else, but I found his treatment of me (during delivery and follow-up) much better than the other two. I'm sure there's a lot of subjective information -- positive and negative -- that wouldn't make it onto a rating site.

bihari said...

Interesting site. It made me ponder my own hospital's system, under which patients rate their visits and their providers on a 1-5 system, with 5 being the best. If someone gives you, the provider, all 5's, you get a little card. Ten cards buys you a free meal, twenty cards gets you two movie tickets, etc. All of which kind of makes me feel like I'm in kindergarten, though not necessarily in a bad way.

Thing is, I never get to see anything but my little cards. I want to know what the patients write! I know the criteria I use to rate my own providers, but I wonder what my patients' criteria (criteriae?) are? I suspect it has much to do with whether I ordered blood draws on their kids, or filled their narcotic prescriptions, or nodded sympathetically when they gave me a half-hour discourse on their back pain, or something equally intangible and non-evidence-based. Who knows.

Nancy said...

First of all, I’m a lawyer and I can’t believe you just dis’ed me! (Yes, I am saying that with total sarcasm!)

Many, many years ago while I was watching Johnny Carson (that gives you some idea of how many years ago it was) he asked the audience something like “how many of you think doctors are over-priced, pompous people with a god complex?” The audience responded with loud ovations. He then asked “how many of you think lawyers are money-grubbing ambulance chasers without a sole?” Again, the audience responded with loud ovations. His final question was “how many of you would give your right arm if your son or daughter would become a doctor or a lawyer?” This got the most overwhelming response of all.

There are good and bad people of all kinds in any profession. I don’t know that this website will provide the answer to “who is good?”, but it might be a step in the right direction.

Orange said...

None of my doctors are listed. Gee, how many doctors does Illinois have? I bet it's a lot more than 543.

There's also a site that is unmoderated and incomplete. A professor friend of mine refuses to even look at such sites to see if his students have written anything about him.

DoctorMama said...

Even though you were being sarcastic, Nancy, I want to assure you that I am NOT anti-lawyer! The Carson joke is pretty telling, isn't it?

Ratemyprofessor is probably worse -- I bet there are a lot of comments about people's fat asses and dopey hair, etc.

When I described the doctor-rating site to my husband, he said, "Oh, it's like the men's room wall." Which I thought was apt.