Last week, the healthcare blogosphere saw a telling debate about the issues surrounding online physician rating.
The brouhaha started with a report about a certain physician review site receiving a threatening legal letter from Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), asking to remove anonymous comments they described as "clearly defamatory".
Of course, the request was refused, but that is not all.
The professional community is waking up to the fact that personal opinions of consumers are being aired online, anonymously and in a highly structured way. These opinions are made readily available and searchable and are starting to affect reputations, or perceptions thereof. Brave New World indeed and legal threats will not stop it.
But here is the really notable part!
Rita Schwab, a professional in medical credentialing, who writes MSSP Nexus Blog, suggested that this type of sites will become mainstay in the credentialing process and she is right! Dr. RW responds with a very valid point of concern:
Well, that’s scary----opening up the credentialing process to last week’s disgruntled drug seeker or patients of this ilk. Heck, why not just invite ‘em to attend the credentials committee? By any reasonable standard the evidentiary quality of sites like this is somewhere below garbage in this blogger’s opinion.
He is right! Doctor rating sites we have today are garbage!
Anonymous review without any kind of accountability invites abuse and should not be trusted. People who are most motivated to use these types of services have an axe to grind. Rita posted a reply to Dr. RW and notes that it is key to consider the source:
I agree with much of what you say about sites like RateMDs. The potential for abuse and unfair attack is considerable.
Credentialers request numerous references, and often perform a general internet search on a physician's name to see what appears. They, and the medical staff leadership that review credentials applications "consider the source" of all those items.
However this does not change the fact that there is huge pent up demand for consumers to hear from other consumers. As another commenter (anonymous by the way!) retorts to Dr. RW:
My assumption is that you are a Medical Doctor. I am not, call me a consumer. If one needs the help of an unknown medical doctor it would be nice to have a way of establishing some credentials but there is nothing. The website appearing is a start. It can, of course, be srutinized by the Medical Doctors themselves and if there is something not right it will be removed. A quick glance shows that the majority gets very good ratings so that is a plus.
So here is the silver lining in a few bullet points:
- Consumer demand for peer-to-peer physician rating information is not going away and will be fulfilled.
- No matter how it is done, the implications of any review by consumers will no doubt be disturbing to many doctors.
- Legal threats will accomplish nothing. Of course except for hanging their originators in the court of public opinion.
- None of the existing review sites have done enough to earn trust and credibility, as Dr. RW rightly points out.
- This does not mean it cannot be done in a way friendly to physicians, helping rather than hurting.
"Consumer Generated Media" (CGM) is here to stay and doctors need to prepare to use it to their advantage.