Monday, December 17, 2007
Rating your doctor
I hate going to see the doctor. I probably shouldn't admit this, but it's been almost three years since my last general checkup. In my case, it's not about the high cost of insurance (my co-pay is a reasonable $15) and not about being lectured on taking better care of myself (even though the doctor does harass me about exercising more). For me, avoiding the doctor's office is about not actually liking my doctor's personality. I don't particularly find her pleasant to be around.
You see, I've tried to find a doctor I like, but as many of you know, it's not easy. If you do manage to make an appointment with a doctor who actually accepts your insurance, you wait months to see him or her. Even after you get into the examination room, good luck spending more than five minutes with the doctor. I can't even remember the last doctor who actually remembered me from my last visit.
That's why I was so intrigued by a new service run by the restaurant review service Zagat's Survey and health insurance company WellPoint. I've been using Zagat's little burgundy books to choose my dining experiences for years. My wife and I never try a new restaurant without consulting Zagat's first. Before I sound too much like a commercial, let me tell you what I like about it. More than 300,000 people chime in on restaurants all around the world, and the establishments are rated on a 30-point scale on food, decor, service and cost. There is also a "straightforward" and "helpful" comment section that puts "well-meaning" reviewer comments in quotes (as I just did). Now, imagine the same idea of "quick and easy" reviews applied to your doctor's visit.
In the Zagat/WellPoint survey, the doctors will be rated online on trust, communication, availability and environment on a 30-point scale. There will also be a comment section after the numerical ratings. A doctor's review won't be published until he/she has 10 reviews by patients. The survey is free and for now is available only to WellPoint insurance members.
"It's not necessarily a bad idea," says Dr. James King, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "It's a little different choosing a doctor over the best restaurant in town. Whether you like the doctor is not indicative of whether you're not getting the best care. A patient needs to understand what's being measured and not being measured." King says communication and friendliness don't always come hand in hand with the best skill. Critics say that a potential pitfall may be any influence WellPoint may have in the survey. Other rating services by insurers may factor the cost of a patient's care into the ratings.
What do you think about rating your doctor? What would you say needs improvement at your doctor's office?
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