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April 12, 2012 at 10:26 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Online Doctor Ratings - This Doctor's Opinion

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

Today a medical student asked me about my feelings regarding the numerous internet ratings sites for doctors.  Honestly, I had not given it much prior thought until now!

This blog will examine the question of using the internet to voice opinions on services provided to the public.

The Matter of Opinions

I recently booked a hotel room online. As I contemplated my Priceline options, I narrowed them to a few choices and then moved to the opinions sections. Reading opinions on anything, it is obvious that a wide range can exist. Multiple factors play in here. People have different expectations. Service providers have good days and bad days. And, of course, stuff happens. 

However, as with the analysis of most data, a trend emerges. Throwing out the extremes (positive and negative) allows one to evaluate the general consensus. Some evaluations help this process by allowing for a numeric rating and then report in the form of an average.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Not many would argue with this. And, like it or not, the internet gives people a megaphone to voice it.

Extreme Motivations

I am asked to fill out surveys all the time. I rarely do, but those surveys or ratings I felt motivated to complete involved being extremely impressed or disappointed. Unfortunately, these extremes of opinion can leave such ratings skewed. Average experiences may not get reviewed with appropriate frequency. In statistics this is called bias.

In some regards, extreme reports are inevitable. Long ago I was given the advice, “You can please some people some of the time but you cannot please all people all of the time.” At times I have relied on this advice to maintain my sanity as I serve people day to day.

Is Medicine Any Different?

Is the medical field different from the restaurant, the hotel or any service-driven industry? I will always maintain that medicine is an art - while there are plenty of guidelines, doctors must balance the discipline of science with skills of communication and empathy. Inevitably, some do it better than others. 

Decades ago, it was considered unethical for physicians to advertise. Patients came into a practice via word of mouth and they stayed if the care was good. So, why should we in medicine argue that the expression of opinion is not right or justified? It is part of our tradition, technologically magnified. It is more of who we are than a billboard along the expressway!

People are entitled to their opinions and they should be allowed to make them known. In fact, as I write, I realize that this is exactly what I am doing now!

Just be sure you recognize opinions for what they are - opinions. 

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