Patients Rely on Rating Systems to Help With Doctor Selection

Historically, choosing a doctor was easy: you just asked a friend or family member for a referral. And, if you needed a specialist, you asked your doctor.

But times are changing. Due to the growth and availability of information on the Web, many health plans now put physician information online along with doctors’ ratings to help guide consumer choices.

The information – which often provides a doctor’s location, details about insurance they accept, and other helpful information – can be useful, but doctor rating systems insurers often utilize have less to do with patient care and bedside manner and more to do with money. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), many doctors receive higher ratings not for their care, but because they keep costs down.

Because of this revelation, the medical community is frustrated. The AMA and dozens of state medical societies sent letters to 47 health plans citing problems with their physician rating systems, many of which (up to two-thirds) provide inaccurate information. The AMA requested that the groups not only provide more accurate and reliable information, but also offer information based on a physician’s ability and reputation, and less on the cost of services.

Despite the criticism from the medical community itself, experts believe the use of online physicians’ rating systems will only grow. While half of all people seeking a doctor still turn to friends and family for a referral, a recent survey by the Center for Studying Health System Change revealed that one out of three people now turn to tools provided by their health insurance provider for information on a doctor.

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