What effect will Hospital Doctor Ratings have on hospital performance?

Ratings Create a More Helpful Medical Environment With doctor rating sites becoming increasingly popular, the Journal of the American Medical Associati...

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|Apr 30|magazine9 min read

Ratings Create a More Helpful Medical Environment

With doctor rating sites becoming increasingly popular, the Journal of the American Medical Association figured it was time to see just how seriously American consumers take the ratings. Their February 2014 survey found that more than 50 percent of participants thought that consumer ratings were somewhat or very important. Hospitals and doctors have, in turn, taken to putting patient reviews on their websites in order to foster a relationship of transparency and trust. By looking at the reviews, physicians can see what their patients like or dislike about their office and can make changes accordingly.

They Make Clumsy Hospitals Clean Up Their Acts

While consumer reviews can keep your doctors tuned to what you need as far as manner and communication, professional rating organizations such as government reports and third-party assessments can more effectively keep doctors and hospitals accountable. This is increasingly important as a February 2014 report by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector found that one in three patients suffered from a medication error, infection, or some other type of patient harm during their treatment.

Another survey from John T James, published in a report in the Journal of Patient Safety, reported that there are between 200,000 and 400,000 deaths caused by patient harm every year. This makes patient harm the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and heart disease.

So what sites should you use to review physicians and hospitals? Government ratings sites like Medicare's hospital compare websites do a great job of collecting data on things like patient readmission, proper antibiotic use, wait times, and surgical complications so that you can see how hospitals compare to each other and to the national average.

They Can Point Out a Physician's Strengths

As one reporter pointed out, most hospitals in the Washington DC area have received an award from some health rating organization or other. The awards are usually specific enough to point to one department or team of physicians' above-par ability. For example, an organization can commend a pediatric radiology department for its bedside manner and best pediatric X ray chair and other equipment.

Keep in mind that such an award doesn't mean that the entire hospital is up to snuff—just that department. An article in Propublica points out that while a  hospital may have an award in pediatric radiology, you also need to take a look at how they were rated in, say, preventative care, to get a good feel of how the hospital as a whole performs. The article also has some helpful advice on how to discern between the many rating organizations, including Medicare's hospital comparisons, Leapfrog, and U.S. News and Report, among others.

Do you rely on physician and hospital ratings? How important are they to you in your physician search?