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Patients still rely on Word of Mouth for Information when choosing a physician

Posted Dec 04 2008 11:29pm

This makes perfect sense as we are still humans, looking for a human to care for us when we are sick.  Sure websites are helpful in looking up office locations, phone numbers, etc. and to get the basic information, as we used to do with phone books, so there’s not a total loss at hand.

If I am using the web, chances are I have already done my “word of mouth” expedition, so what ever I find on the web, and according to this report it is pretty flimsy, is not going to have a huge effect. It seems that folks turn to the web though if they have had an undesirable experience though, then you really go digging.   Also, even if you find a physician on the web, there’s still that desire to also somehow find some additional “human” information too, after all we are not looking for a “ text box doc” to take care of us.image

Now as far as technology and follow up, I would not have a problem using the web for a telemedicine visit, again, I would feel ok after having met the physician in person beforehand, so I know who I am dealing with.  This report also goes to show how rankings, etc. can be tweaked and when insurance companies a while back began ranking doctors, it was not a full picture at all a well, as physicians who perhaps saw more patients who are in a critical state showed a higher death rate, so it was like comparing oranges to apples. 

Be sure and visit the link from the Slate where a physician did his own study and see what he has to say in detail.  I found his comments under the “ Suggestadoctor” site quite amusing, but he is telling us exactly what happened.  BD 

“With my unceasing selfishness campaign, I was able to hike my scores to levels that would make my mother and even my mother-in-law proud. I also peddled my influence upon one other site,Suggestadoctor, where my electioneering was particularly productive. The next day, I received an e-certificate in a gold frame announcing that patient Kent S. had rated me so favorably—he was particularly impressed by my "superhuman ability"—that I was now a "Suggested Doctor" though I didn't make it into the site's elite "Most Recommended Doctors" circle.”

Despite all the hype about consumer-directed care and the ability of financially motivated patients to make good health-care buying decisions, it’s long been known that most consumers don’t pay attention to the increasing amount of web-based information about doctors and hospitals. A new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (CSHSC) shows that none of the “transparency” efforts by health plans, the government, and assorted vendors have moved the needle in the past several years. Most people still rely on word of mouth and health-plan directories when choosing a primary-care physician, and they tend to depend on their primary-care doctors to select a specialist or a hospital.

But even if they were interested in going online—and they weren’t among the 90 million Americans with low health literacy—they’d find very little on the web to illuminate them. In an amusing Slate article, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz relates his arduous journey through a batch of sites that provide information on and patient ratings of doctors. “Here’s what I found: zilch,” he writes. “The online doctor rating system has a shocking lack of useful information.” It’s also easily manipulated, he discovered when he posed as a patient and posted enthusiastic comments about his own medical skills and affability.

http://industry.bnet.com/healthcare/1000253/consumer-directed-cares-achilles-hee

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