While some doctors may not believe that factors not directly related to their ability as medical practitioners—waiting room time, for example—should be considered in determining how competent they are, Dr. Segal explained that they’re very important in determining how caring patients perceive doctors to be. “Patient satisfaction comes down to expectations,” said Dr. Segal. “There are ways to solve problems such as long waiting room times. If you’re running late, a simple text message to your patients explaining the delay and offering them an opportunity to reschedule shows that you’re respectful of their time. Little considerations like those go a long way.”—AD
Additionally, not every doctor in the U.S. is analyzed by U.S. News Top Doctors. The publication’s website states that “Castle Connolly has identified more than 31,000 excellent doctors. But with close to 800,000 physicians in America, more are surely worthy of the recognition. In pockets of the country, a Top Doctor has yet to be identified, in some cases because an insufficient number of nominations have been submitted.”
Pete Batra, MD, FACS, associate professor and co-director of the comprehensive skull base program in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, feels that just because a doctor is on a list doesn’t make him or her a top doctor. “While there is some value to certain publications where peers identify colleagues whom they feel are the best, this is only one metric. There are so many metrics to identify physicians who are good at what they do.”
Patient Review Sites
Online reviews of hotels and restaurants are ubiquitous and have arguably made these industries better. Yet doctors have yet to register a fraction of the number of reviews found online for those services—an inherent flaw when a prospective patient is searching for guidance online. Sites abound that offer users reviews and rakings (such as HealthGrades.com, RateMD.com and Angie’s List.), but the doctors who are listed tend to have a handful of reviews, a majority of which are positive.
In a study published last year in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers concluded that, despite the overall positive reviews given to physicians by patients, a “few of these ‘reviews’ have become an outlet for patients who are dissatisfied for not getting what they want despite receiving appropriate medical care. Even worse, some [negative] reviews are believed to be acts of sabotage from competing providers or organizations” (J Med Internet Res. 2011;13(4):e95). Some physicians have attempted legal action against negative reviewers—an act that surely doesn’t instill confidence in the reviewer.
It’s imperative for otolaryngologists who value their online reputation to take the initiative, said Dr. Segal. “Control what the world is reading about you online,” he added. In fact, Medical Justice offers a system called eMerit that gives doctors an iPad that allows their patients to review their experience immediately upon completion of their visit.