Physician Rating and Patient Satisfaction

Wellpoint has teamed up with Zagat to rate its physicians. Rating will be based on patients' satisfaction surveys and will be available to more than one million members.

Next time when you open the Zagat’s burgundy-colored guide, you will still be able to choose the state and even compare Indian with Italian vs. Chinese food. What will be different is you will be reviewing your physician rating as compared to restaurants and nightlife. Food, décor, service and cost will be replaced by trust, communication, availability and office environment. What will be missing is the information about malpractice and medical expertise.

Wellpoint has teamed up with Zagat to rate its physicians. Rating will be based on patients’ satisfaction surveys. At least ten responses from patients will be needed before a doctor is rated. Wellpoint’s program will be available to more than one million members, online by the end of March. It is expected to be available to all 35 million members, though no date is set for that.

Rating physicians seem to be the American favorite past time these days. Another large insurer, Aetna, already surveys patients about their network physicians and post the results online. A simple Google search using “physician rating” will give numerous sites providing this service. Changing the search words will definitely catch more sites. The sites vary from free for service to $46 reports. RevolutionHealth.com asks the readers “if you rate hotels and restaurants why not doctors”. At “Healthgrade.com” you can buy the repost at a baseline cost of $29; you can then spice up the menu with additional orders on the side. Drscore.com will score the physicians on a scale of 10, the average presently posted being 7.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with physician rating, patient satisfaction surveys may not be the best option. As we are all well aware, this is fraught with so many factors, such as your front office receptionist. A chatty, friendly, well dressed and even good looking receptionist may earn you a better score.

A well known issue is begrudged patients are always more likely to give negative surveys than satisfied customers. We are all well aware of the drug seeking patients, patients seeking disability who do not deserve it, looking for disability parking permits etc. If dealt with on merit these customers are often dissatisfied and vocal about their feelings. It does not reflect at all on the physicians’ competence or medical knowledge, ability to synthesize medical data: all vital elements to good patient care. It is perhaps time that instead of scores of websites and agencies trying to score physicians we agree to a single agency or site with uniform rating criteria, which should include patient satisfaction as one tool, but not the only basis.

On a web-based fabric, authorized insurers or regulatory authorities can fill up the matrices about a particular physician without the ability to alter the structure of them. Contributors can pay for this as well, liberating it from the restraints of advertising revenue.