When editors of Consumer Reports rate cars or refrigerators, potential buyers get sophisticated advice from engineers and technical people who know what they are doing. But when patients evaluate physicians, it’s another matter altogether.
While that’s still true, he says, the time is ripe to mine patients for what they do know about their physicians, and he’s out to correct what he thinks is an abominable situation in the M.D.-rating cosmos.
A better way?
In July 2009, working with health care plans UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Cigna and regional Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, Krughoff launched a rating site based on patient answers to questionnaires developed by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which sets the standard for querying patients about the care they’ve gotten from physicians. The insurance companies helped him survey a random sample of their patients.
Free speech vs. accuracy
The anonymity has made RateMDs cofounder John Swapceinski a target for some physicians who think the patient call-outs aren’t fair. “They’re not big proponents of freedom of speech. That’s what it really comes down to,” says Swapceinski, who has built his business in the face of doctor complaints, including legal efforts to pull down comments.
Swapceinski acknowledges that accuracy is an issue. “It’s true that some of the ratings that are up there are probably unfair. And the hope is the fair ratings will counteract and negate the unfair ones as more ratings are added,” he says. Ultimately, he hopes, the patient feedback will reward good doctors and punish bad ones. “It’s survival of the fittest,” says Swapceinski.