Online consumer ratings met with considerable physician distrust, ACPE finds

Healthcare is becoming a more survey-soaked, quality-bent industry. Alongside the numerous inter-threads of restaurant reviews, film criticisms and Amazon stars, a patient can now shop for and rate an MD. But while this means quick and comfortable browsing for the patient, it’s a totally different experience for those being judged and marked — the physicians.  

According to a recent survey conducted by American College of Physician Executives (ACPE), a majority of physicians view online consumer rating platforms to be irksome in their inaccuracies. Of the 730 respondents, only 12 percent dubbed consumer ratings as helpful, while 29 percent regarded the ratings as ineffectual to themselves and their organization. A further 26 percent categorized such assessments as nuisances.   

Regardless of aforementioned opinions, 69 percent of those surveyed did admit to checking their profile on various sites, but 55 percent later disclaimed that they didn’t think most of their patients made use of the interfaces.

For Peter Angood, MD, CEO of ACPE, and the rest of his organization, this physician response to quantifying consumerism brings to light a much-needed discussion regarding the essence of quality measures and metrics.

“Any type of measurement in public reporting is ultimately trying to improve the system,” Angood told PhysBizTech. “In healthcare, the patients are the end product, so we have to pay attention to how the patients are perceiving their healthcare but we also have to help the patients understand the value of measurement and metrics and how we can get more accurate with measurement and metrics. Just going to your doctor and having a feel-good experience doesn’t necessarily mean you got really good healthcare. We have to continue improving the quality of measurement and reporting so that the patients are able to understand when we have these ratings systems out there, what’s really accurate.”

Although the results of the survey were “pretty much expected,”nAngood was quick to note that from predictable dissent can emerge strategies for more active patient engagement.

“We need to help the patient and the family communities understand how these ratings came to be, what the value of the measures are, and to be able to be comfortable that those measurements are indeed a reflection on the accuracy of the healthcare delivered. For physicians, whether they’re in a private practice environment or whether they are practicing through different types of healthcare organizations, it’s necessary to recognize that performance improvement and quality improvement are always important and should be a high priority. In order to get better performance improvement, they need to be considering how to monitor and measure their own practice and their own practice style.”

To facilitate this patient-physician knowledge trade, both entities need to play their part.

“Measurement and public reporting is an evolving science,” Angood said. “We recognize that it’s very much here to stay in healthcare and so the sooner that both the physicians/healthcare organizations and the patient populations embrace it, the better off we’ll be so that we can refine measurement and public reporting more quickly. It’s incumbent on both the provider’s side as well as on the patient side to recognize that there needs to be attention paid to the quality of the measures so that they understand what the value of the report is actually providing.”

Some high-profile initiatives include motions by the Joint Commission, the primary accreditation agency in the country, and the National Quality Forum, “another group that endorses measures and function[s] on federal statute,” Angood added.

Informing patients of these actions and having more discussions aimed at fleshing out what each party considers of quality can better attune online consumer ratings with clinical accuracy. After all, sharing can be caring on more levels than one.

“Whether you’re in the younger generation or the older generation these days, it seems that at least 30-40 percent of individuals are checking out healthcare on the Internet,” Angood concluded. “Through the use of Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other platforms, the sharing of the information amongst individuals in increasing. That’s all impacting the importance of having accurate consumer ratings of physicians and of healthcare.”

Other survey findings were listed by the ACPE as such:

  • Of the physicians who checked their online profiles, 39 percent said they agreed with their ratings and 42 percent said they partially agreed. Nineteen percent didn't agree.
  • The survey also revealed skepticism about ratings conducted by healthcare organizations such as the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), The Joint Commission and Press Ganey, too, although they are viewed more favorably than online consumer sites.  Most (41 percent) described their feelings about them as neutral. Another 29 percent said the systems were helpful, while 14 percent said they were a waste of time.