NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Helen King Knight, a public relations professional at King Knight Communications, raves about her chiropractor but is much less enthusiastic about her internist.
"My chiropractor ... caught [my] blood pressure problem, read MRI results to me within seconds of receiving them, while the M.D. who ordered them never bothered to call to say she had them," Knight says. "I had to make an appointment to get the results."
Knight also says she requested a copy of her medical records from her internist and found that the records contained important errors.
A recent study by Vanguard Communications of more than 28,000 reviews of health practitioners on Yelp, where consumers rate their satisfaction with businesses, suggests that consumers appear to the favor non-physicians. On average, medical doctors -- commonly referred to as M.D.s -- were rated 3.8 out of 5 stars whereas non-M.D. healthcare providers, including – naturopaths, audiologists, and podiatrists, had an average rating of 4.29 stars on Yelp.
While online doctor reviews are not scientific surveys, they appear to reflect certain quality measures. A group of medical researchers from the American Board of Internal Medicine in Philadelphia, the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota measured the association between physician online ratings and traditional quality measures of patient and clinical experience. They found no evidence that these ratings were associated with clinical quality measures and a “small” association between ratings and patients' experience.
“Overall, our study provides valuable information to consumers considering the usefulness of physician website ratings,” the authors wrote.
Whether or not the analysis by Vanguard Communications, a marketing and public relations firm for specialty medical practices, is reflective of patient satisfaction or is, rather, a reflection of more vocal patients, a question remains: why might patients be more satisfied with their experiences visiting certain healthcare practitioners? The answer may lie in interpersonal skills and interest in the patient.
"The things that make me most satisfied with a health practitioner are someone who is a good listener and takes time with me ... who has good bedside manner and who is caring and understanding of the fact that I get super nervous about medical procedures ... who does not insult my intelligence ... and who is supportive of my thoughts and preferences as a patient when possible," says Anne Newsome of the blog Healthy Southern Mama.
"Patients want a doctor who listens and a staff that is approachable,"says Mitch Rothschild, founder and executive chairman of Vitals, a doctor rating website. Patients want to feel that they are being valued when seeking a service for which they're often paying good money.
"People understand doctors are busy, but they want someone who is considerate of their time and, at a minimum, provides a cheery waiting room," Rothschild says. "Ultimately, what the reviews show is that people are looking for a doctor-patient relationship that is built on mutual respect."
—Written by S.Z. Berg for MainStreet