Rate Your Doctor

Monday, November 24th 2008, 1:25 am
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

These days, you can rate and review everything from televisions to hotels to contractors online. Now, a growing number of web sites promises to give doctors a personalized checkup.

But some doctors are not convinced the process helps, and they worry it may hurt physicians.

When Nancy Foreman needs a doctor, she does her homework by looking up their qualifications and interviewing them on the phone. But now, before she hits the waiting room, she also logs on to a "rating room."

On a growing number of sites like Ratemds.com, Nursesrecommenddoctors.com and DrScore.com, patients can rant, rave, and review their doctors, anonymously.

"I liked the fact that I could see how other people rated some of the doctors that I had had, and to see that they had agreed with me or not agreed with me." Foreman said.

Many sites also give you access to medical board information, specialties and education. John Swapceinski is the creator of Ratemds.com, which receives over 500 thousand hits a month. The creator believes that scoring sites can offer constructive feedback to doctors and are an empowering tool for patients.

"People want to know what they're buying ahead of time," Swapceinski said. "It can give you a lot of insight into whether you think this would be a doctor who would meet your needs or not."

Patients rate things like bedside manner, wait time and accuracy of diagnosis based on a scale. Some also let you write a more personalized evaluation.

But many doctors believe it can be unfair and misleading. Dr. Nancy Nielsen, the American Medical Association President, said consumers have no idea who's writing the reviews.

"Simply because you don't know whether that person is even a patient of the doctor they're rating," Nielsen said.

The three Web sites said they have all received calls from angry doctors and lawyers demanding that certain postings be removed. Rebecca Jeschke with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said posting anonymously is one of your first amendment rights.

"However, if you do defame someone or, you know, say something untrue and harmful on a Web site, your identity could be revealed through the legal process," Jeschke warned.

Swapceinski said he has never been forced to take a claim down. He stresses the site is not meant to bash physicians.

"Of all the feedback on the site, about 70 percent of it is positive and only 30 percent is negative." Swapceinski said.