Nothing grinds my gears more than seeing a restaurant I love trashed on Yelp by someone who hasn’t even eaten there, for reasons that have nothing to do with the food or service. I would think those feelings would be even worse for a hardworking doctor, seeing his practice dissed online by a patient he’s never seen.
Consumerism is all the rage in health care today, as patients with high-deductible and narrow-network insurance plans are forced to shop around for the highest-quality experience at the lowest price. Outside influencers, such as Yelp, have taken note of this trend, as the San Francisco company partnered with ProPublica earlier this month to bolster its hospital reviews with data from the government and other sources.
Looking to get ahead of this trend and ensure that patients choose physicians based on all information available, North Shore-LIJ Health System began posting online reviews of docs on its website last week. Those assessments are based on some 500,000 surveys of patients administered by patient experience firm Press Ganey over the last year and a half. The online changes follow similar moves made by the University of Utah Health Care, Salt Lake City, and Piedmont Healthcare, Atlanta.
North Shore officials believe putting the reviews online and positioning itself as "the honest broker of information in the marketplace" is a "powerful statement" to consumers, says Ira Nash, M.D., practicing cardiologist and executive director of the health system’s medical group.
"Anybody can go onto Yelp and write a review about me, whether they’ve seen me in my practice or not. That seems to me to be a pretty fatal flaw," Nash says. "It’s compounded by the fact that these sites are more than happy to publish ratings based on a very small number of respondents, sometimes as few as one or two. That’s the environment that we live in today, and there’s no way to erase or suppress that, but we thought that we could at least present a better alternative and, hopefully, have better information drive out worse information."
All told, the Great Neck, N.Y., health system’s medical group includes about 2,300 physicians, but the "Find a Doctor" only comprises about 900 docs who provide care in ambulatory medical practice settings. North Shore had no means of compelling contracted physicians to take part, and it didn’t make sense to rate inpatient experiences, Nash says, when dozens of clinicians are involved in the encounter. Also excluded are specialists such as radiologists, pathologists and other doctors who provide only inpatient services.
Patients surveyed ranked their MD on a 1 to 5 scale on 10 different factors, including friendliness, instructions on follow-up care and amount of time they spent with the patient. North Shore is further strengthening the effort by awarding the five physicians with top patient scores annually, and providing education and training to those who could use a boost in their bedside manner.
Nash says that physician resistance against the ratings system, to his knowledge, has been minimal. That’s because the health system has taken a slow, deliberate process to its rollout over the past two years, involving doctors at every turn. "This was not so much imposed on anybody, but became kind of a signature initiative of the group. Of course, there were people who were less enthusiastic than others, but I think it was done in a gradual and thoughtful way so that people’s objections were heard."
For those hospital leaders who are considering the same approach, Nash believes that communication is critical. He’s unsure whether this practice will become the norm throughout the industry, but it’s only going to grow in the coming years, and CEOs should consider adopting it before their competitors do so first.
"It may never be universal, but the trend will definitely be toward more organizations doing this, and I think it’s all for the good," Nash says. "We owe it to our patients to provide them as much information as possible about what their experience is likely to be like if they come to one of our doctor’s offices or facilities."