As more hospitals post ratings for physicians online, questions remain as to whether the rating data has a benefit to patients or is merely a marketing tool.
For most physician ratings, patient experience and satisfaction scores are converted to a five-star scale, according to an article from KPBS Radio News. Patients are surveyed on wait times, how attentive they found their doctor and if the doctor’s messages were easy to understand, according to the article, but the rating system does not take into account how effective the diagnosis was or if the correct treatment was prescribed--metrics that would likely interest patients.
In addition to a potentially limited scope, KPBS examined the profiles of 406 physicians at two hospitals in the Scripps Health system--Scripps Coastal and Scripps Clinic--which found that about 92 percent of the profiles had ratings between 4.7 and 5. Physicians in systems that use ratings systems, though, told KPBS that patients can understand that even the difference in decimal has meaning to the type of experience they can expect.
“If I’m looking at a physician with a 4.2 star rating, I know that compared to others, that’s probably in the bottom 10 percent in patient experience,” Greg Burke, M.D., chief patient experience officer for Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, told the publication. “They’re not performing very well compared with their peers. You just look at the score differently: 4.0-4.3 stars is a D, and 4.4-4.5 is about a C.”
Other advocates of ratings systems told KPBS that the true key is allowing patient comments, which lay out exactly what that person’s experience with a specific physician was like. Allowing comments directly from patients also promotes transparency and openness with the consumer, Ashish Jha, M.D., an internist and health policy professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the publication.
Vivian Lee, M.D., CEO of University of Utah Health Care, which launched online ratings in 2012, told KPBS that aggregating patient responses in formal ratings offers concrete data hospitals can use to improve. From reviews of doctors in the system, University of Utah addressed issues like communication and parking, she said.
Jha, who has studied the trend in the past, told KPBS that even if marketing is a system’s ultimate goal for publishing physician ratings, it can still lead to positive changes for patients. “We want doctors to clean up their act, and if this is what’s motivating them, great,” he said.
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