Rating your doctor
When it comes to doctors, their aura splintered a long time ago in the developed west, but an USA based rating site by the name of ratemds.com has helped remove any doubts. The site allows patients to rate their doctors, online. The site has already rated 204,224 doctors till today and seems to be going strong as they get about 800 new ratings per day! And guess what, India is on it too, besides the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The rating can be good, average or poor, and the docs are to be rated on four aspects:
- Staff – How is the service and helpfulness of the doctor’s staff? (This category is NOT included in the “Overall Quality” rating.)
- Punctuality – How long does the doctor keep you waiting? (This category is NOT included in the “Overall Quality” rating.)
- Helpfulness – This category rates the doctor’s helpfulness and approachability. Is the doctor approachable and nice? Is he rude, arrogant, or just plain mean? Does he have a good bed-side manner?
- Knowledge – This is the most important of the three categories, at least to most people. How did his treatments work for you?
Well, doctors will be happy to know that their punctuality or the behavior of their staff is not taken into account. But their helpfulness is. If I think back to the best doctors I ever had, a doctor’s persona does count. If the patient feels comfortable with the doctor, it makes communication easier and this helps in diagnosis and treatment.
But rating doctors is a sensitive subject which some people (particularly those from the medical field) feel isn’t right. They feel that patients should not rate doctors because they do not know medicine. There is also the possibility or abuse or vindictive patients on such sites.
However there is another point of view. That like other professionals doctors provide a service and this service needs to be rated. More so, because it can be a case of life and death for patients. And that abuse can be controlled with good management by site owners.
On this site for example, they filter out abuse and warn:
Please make your comments detailed, helpful and polite and tell us WHY you rated as you did. Libellous or very short comments may be deleted. Further, this is not the right forum for reporting illegal activity, unless you include a link to a site with supporting evidence.
And remember, you are legally responsible for what you write here.
Also if too many negative comments about one doctor arrive within a short span of time (even if they are from different computers) then the site management becomes suspicious and such comments are strictly checked before they are published.
I am not sure however whether libel laws will work that well in India. As it is our legal system is slow to react. Perhaps that is why even doctors don’t have too many malpractice suits against them. And if they do have, most of the doctors win. As it says here:
Regulatory bodies, such as the MCI and state councils, constituted to look into matters of negligence…maintain that most cases do not constitute medical neglect. “Almost 90 per cent of such cases happen because of lack of communication or error of judgment. Since the patients who visit private hospitals spend enormous amounts of money, they believe that nothing should go wrong,” says Dr Saini.
Doctors argue that medical services can’t be equated with the service industry which promises value for money. “Medical errors are different from other professional errors because we are working on the human body. There is no exact procedure or set formula to reach a conclusion, so errors are bound to happen,” says Dr Saini..
Well, I am sure that medical treatment is a very complex procedure, but it is difficult to generalise. I do not have a list of actual cases and judgments so cannot evaluate that here. But I have read that more often than not, the doctor is viewed sympathetically.
In India a ratemd site will be useful as the legal route doesn’t work that well. In any case, why go to a court after the damage is done? A rating site helps patients choose a doctor most suitable to them. Mobility has increased in India and thousands are leaving their birthplaces and the first thing they need after reaching the new place is a good doctor. A person has to frantically call up someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows a doctor. That is the only way. Few of us like to walk into a doctor’s clinic without knowing at least a little something about him.
The truth is that every doctor, however competent he is, will have at least one or two disgruntled patients. That doesn’t mean that the doctor isn’t good. If I read 10 good reports about a doctor and one negative one, I am more likely to go by what the positive reports say. Also by reading the examples given by someone who criticizes the doctor (specifics have to be given) one can always decide whether that particular aspect is relevant or important to us. The doctors should have faith in us patients to make the right decision. Patients are not fools, they understand what is important. And if a doctor is troubled by negative remarks, he/she can always ask satisfied patients to write about him.