Wanted: More Online Doctor Information

January 21, 2011

Though most adults say they wish they could find more comprehensive information about physicians in cyberspace, in reality, many adults actually spend more time researching gadgets and gifts than they do researching their primary-care physicians.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted by Insider Pages and Harris Interactive reveals a whopping 78 percent of those ages 18 to 34 wish doctors would share more information online.

But although most adults say they wish they could find more comprehensive information about physicians in cyberspace, in reality, about half of all adults (42 percent) actually spend more time researching gadgets and gifts than they do researching their primary-care physicians.

The results of the survey suggest that many people base their choice of doctor on the convenience of the doctor’s office location, as opposed to other important factors such as patient ratings, the doctor’s malpractice records, or areas of expertise, say researchers.

What the survey didn’t touch upon is the fact that finding doctor ratings can be tougher than finding restaurant ratings online.

People are more than happy to write a New York Times-style critique of a soufflé appetizer at a trendy French bistro during their spare time. But when it comes to critiquing their most recent doctor visit, these same wannabe restaurant critics aren’t dishing the details.

Perhaps this is because physician-compare sites such as HealthGrades don’t give consumers option of posting detailed feedback. Some physicians see it as damaging. In fact, we recently heard that a practice in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is apparently asking patients to sign a form that states they won’t make comments about their visit on Internet sites (including their own Facebook and Twitter accounts). 

Still, from a consumer’s perspective it would be nice to see a little more information, and at least be able to view comments approved by the physicians themselves.

When I moved to Stamford, Conn., a little more than a year ago, I had a tough time finding ratings for a specific type of practitioner, and friends’ recommendations were based on generic, annual services rather than specific needs.

I ended up finding mine through a little narrowing down. First, I used my insurer’s Web site to get contact information for doctors with offices close to home. Next, I typed each doctor’s name into an Internet search engine.

Next, I narrowed down my list to two seemingly solid candidates.

Both were five-star physicians, according Health Grades-powered Insider Pages’ doctor finder, so I had to take my search a step further.

The doctor I ended up going with was part of a practice with a comprehensive Web site. There, I could browse information on her education and certifications, a detailed list of her areas of expertise, and insurance policies accepted by her practice.

More than a year later, she’s my favorite doctor (the first I’ve ever sent a Christmas card), and I recently gave her solid five-star ratings in every category on HealthGrades. And I hope that people using this site will give her business because of my review.

For those physicians who’d like to improve their current online ratings, check out some our tips how to defend (and boost) your reputation.

A good doctor, in the least, can lift the spirits dampened by a bad trendy restaurant.