Feature

How patients rate doctors

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1408 (Published 30 September 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1408
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne, medical journalist
  1. 1New York
  1. TanneJH{at}aol.com

    A website allowing UK patients to rate their doctors upset many in the profession, but similar systems are well established in the US. Janice Hopkins Tanne reports

    Suppose you’re an ordinary American and you need to find a new doctor. What should you do? You could ask your friends and work colleagues. Your health insurance company will give you a list of doctors, but they are usually listed by the distance from your home or office. If you know the names of some doctors, the American Medical Association provides basic information about most US doctors through its Doctor Finder service, as do most of the state agencies that license doctors. (In the United States, doctors are licensed by the individual states.)

    But those sources don’t answer many of the questions patients want answered: is it easy to get an appointment with the doctor? are the office staff efficient? is the doctor pleasant? is he or she good at explaining things?

    What you need is the equivalent of a Zagat restaurant guide, which collects and correlates diners’ ratings, for doctors. In fact, US patients have more than two dozen guides, including one from Zagat to turn to. Some doctor rating websites are just somebody’s opinion and are run by entrepreneurs. But large insurance companies have also set up more organised systems to survey their members and share the information.

    Rating approaches

    Some sites are free, such as RateMDs.com, DrScore, Vitals, and Revolution Health. Others, like HealthGrades, offer some information free and will provide more detailed reports for a fee—$29.95 (£16; €20) for a report on one doctor, $9.95 for a report on a second doctor.

    RateMDs.com was cofounded in 2004 by entrepreneur John Swapceinski, who founded the RateMyProfessors site in 1995. RateMDs is, he says, “free for all users, owned and managed by …

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