Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Humbling Experience

As Physicians are becoming aware, consumers of health care products (better known as patients in my world) are increasingly likely to leave reviews of their physicians on sites such as Healthgrades, RateMDs and Vitals. Of course the angry patient is more likely to vent criticism than the satisfied one unless the physician's practice is actively encouraging patients to go to the sites.

I use a service that emails me once a week with my data listings on several rating sites, including the ones included above. Rarely is there anything new but yesterday my email indicated a new evaluation. I clicked on the link and found the following comment, "Rolled her eyes at me with her head bent down when I told her I thought I had something going on--I presume she thought I couldn't see that gesture." Ouch! It is certainly not inconceivable that I did that. It is, however, very unprofessional. Was I burnt out that day? Was I actually rolling my eyes at the computer that tries my patience on an on-going basis? Had it been a horribly unproductive day and I wasn't listening the way I should have been? Whatever the reason the behavior was completely inappropriate. I believe in patient-centered care. No matter what was going on with me that day, my patient should not have felt undervalued and patronized. In checking the patient schedule from the day the review was written and the day before I could find nothing outstanding. Fortunately the review site allows physicians to comment (many don't) so I took the opportunity to apologize. More importantly, this gave me an opportunity to think about my reactions to patients and remember to pay more attention to my interactions, especially on days when I am frustrated or tired.

Physicians have long been protected from such reviews but as more and more "quality" data is released to the general public by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), not only will specific comments from patients be available but sites like Angie's List and Consumer Reports will use that data to rate physician practices.

It's a scary world to physicians, but frankly some days I need a little constructive criticism. The good news is when I get this critique: "Excellent physician. Will not tell you what you what to hear but tells you what you need to know. Does not claim to know it all and will refer to specialists (the best available) without a second thought. I trust her with my life and have for 19 years." 


  1. Great post Dr. Kathy! Patient reviews are a neglected element of progressive healthcare. While, as you modestly pointed out, they can be humbling and provide you insights into small things that matter to patients; they can also be very frustrating, especially when patients review after they 'catch you at a bad time.'

    Vitals, RateMDs, healthgrades, etc. do offer patient reviews and ratings; but what level of monitoring exists for such websites? what are the different patient biases that come into play?

    What if doctors actively sought patient reviews and timed them appropriately? E.g. A last follow-up would be a good time to get a patient review right? Patient is happy (and conscious) and the entire experience is fresh in his mind. Reviews are awesome! Just need a more standardized manner of execution for common welfare.

    1. I agree completely. I was just happy this one was on where I could respond to it. Thanks for the retweet!

  2. Self-reflection...always the sign of the consummate professional. Nice.