Monday, September 28, 2009

Provider Ratings

I recently decided to obtain auto insurance quotes from most of the major insurance companies websites. The quote process is generally very simple: enter your information and you get an instant on-line quote. As I feel it necessary to perform some due diligence and not just go with the least expensive quote, I Googled "auto insurance ratings." Well, what a frustrating experience. I wouldn't say that I am now more confused - only that it wasn't at all helpful. The Web is filled with a smattering of reviews and many of the negative ones seem that there is more to the story than what is written. In addition, we mostly know that an unsatisfied customer is much more likely to take their story to the Internet and post it as opposed to a satisfied customer with no issues.

What's my point to this post? I have come across various articles and websites that give patients the opportunity to rate their health care provider. In fact, here is an example of such a site. One can even go to Yelp to get provider-specific ratings from their patients. I have some concerns over what impact these ratings may have on providers and patients. Clearly, objective data cannot be disputed such as the education, training and the certification of providers. However, how much emphasis can we place on subjective data? Does this truly help us when choosing a provider? The patient who claims to be "mis-diagnosed" is much more likely to post this experience than someone who is truly satisfied and happy with their care.

I would much rather see some sort of qualitative data (i.e. percentage of patients with diabetic complications, number of hospitalizations, etc) when choosing a provider. Unfortunately, much of that data is nearly impossible to aggregate with the archaic paper and pen records system of most practices. So, we are largely left with subjective data to guide our decision when choosing a provider (this also assumes that we actually have a choice when it comes to choosing providers - I'm not sure most of the un or underinsured are taking to the Internet to research this kind of data).

What do you think? Are these rating sites helpful? After all, nearly every other industry uses customer ratings on their websites (think eBay and Amazon). Should health care also follow suit? Could this create a new independent agency whose purpose is to perform these ratings (such as a J.D. Power & Associates)?

Now I must go back to making that auto insurance decision!

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