Dr. Ken’s Corner: Physician Online Ratings: Good or Bad?

It seems like everyone is looking over your shoulder these days. Patients, hospital administrators, private insurance companies, licensing boards, government insurers (not to mention your fellow physicians). If you haven’t done so already (but I’ll bet you have) Google search yourself and your practice. You’re likely to find very few physician online ratings which means that “the ratings can be easily skewed by 1 or 2 very happy (or unhappy) patients, rendering them unreliable,” says Chandy Ellimoottil, M.D., of Loyola University Medical Center. “Our findings suggest that consumers should take these ratings with a grain of salt.” [Reference: Physician Online Ratings Unreliable, Easily Skewed. December 10, 2012. Journal of Urology.]

“There is nothing we can do to protect ourselves except to provide good, high-quality patient-focused care,” says Dr. Scott Manaker of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Speaking recently at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, Dr. Manaker noted that we need to recognize publicly reported data as part of today’s medical landscape, “whether good or bad, accurate or biased.” [Reference: Who Is Rating You Online and What Can You Do About It? Medscape.com. November 9, 2012.] Dr. Ellimoottil’s survey of online ratings of 500 urologists found that patients submitted comments that were extremely negative 3% of the time (e.g. “He needs to retire as he can barely walk”), 22% were negative, 39% were positive, and 14% were extremely positive (e.g. “One of the best checkups in a long time!!”). By the way, the top physician rating Web sites are Healthgrades.com and Vitals.com.

It takes only one disgruntled patient to give you a negative online image. But, “it’s not all beyond one’s control,” says Dr. Burt Lesnick of Atlanta. When interviewed for the Medscape article, Dr. Lesnick urged doctors to build their online presence on social networking sites, referring to them as “the mother of all physician ratings.” He says that Facebook and Twitter are good ways to tell patients about yourself and your practice, plus “it’s good marketing.” When all is said and done, it’s important to be proactive instead of trying to defend yourself against a few nasty comments.

Ken Teufel is the Medical Director for Interim Physicians