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Journal of ASPR - Summer 2013 - Stay aware of online rating sites
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Stay aware of online rating sites

By Miranda Grace, DASPR, Physician Recruiter, Lewistown Hospital

Miranda GraceMy first experience with an internet rating site was in college. was widely used as the guide to scheduling classes with professors who were equally helpful and, let’s face it, painless. Today, many other rating sites are surfacing, including those that assess the qualifications of both training and practicing physicians in regard to credentials, friendliness, timeliness, staff, bedside manner, accurate diagnosis, etc. The potential exists for physician recruitment professionals to use this information during the screening process. However, for now, there are risks involved. Similarly, rating sites for hospitals and other healthcare organizations are emerging, hopefully giving consumers the opportunity to make “more informed” decisions about where to go for services. Even more important to our specific profession, physician candidates are using these sites to make decisions about where to seek employment. Physician recruitment professionals, as well as other healthcare leaders, should be aware of this information and understand its potential impact on healthcare and recruitment, both now and in the future.

Types of sites
Physician rating sites serve to both enlighten and empower consumers, often through customer feedback based on the treatment they or a loved one received. Collection of this information may take place via surveys, algorithms, or free text comments, and is primarily consumer driven. In contrast, hospital rating sites often use publicly published metrics, including those derived from entities like the Joint Commission or Department of Health, to rate facilities in such areas as patient safety, clinical quality, and patient satisfaction. Why is this important? Kay Hamilton, president and CEO of Lewistown Hospital explained, “I’ve interviewed physician candidates that have looked at our hospital’s ratings online before coming to visit us. They even came with questions about it,” she said. “You can’t blame them. They want to make sure that the organization is solvent, has a good clinical reputation, and reputable quality metrics. This shows good hospital-physician alignment.”

Potential Problems
For physician recruitment professionals, physician rating sites have the potential to serve as a supplemental background checking source. However, Dr. Cathleen Veach advised against this use. Dr. Veach, a family physician and medical director of Family Health Associates in Lewistown, PA , cautioned that “[Rating sites] are still in their infancy. Since they’re not standardized, they’re not showing what might be important to know about a physician may miss something.” She added, “Depending on how they develop and how they are monitored, rating sites might be a reliable source for recruiters in the future, but not now.”
Similar to the problems Dr. Veach expressed, there are several other risks involved in using rating sites. For example, information is not always kept updated. Additionally, there are numerous providers with the same names that may be confused with each other. To negate these risks, verify that the information on the site is current with that on the physician’s CV, making sure that everything on the site lines up accordingly.

Another potential problem arises on sites with the option to leave open-ended comments, or rate a physician based on a list of criteria, because it’s difficult to say who is actually behind the results. If comments and ratings are exceedingly positive, it could be a sign of excellent clinical and interpersonal skills, or it could be someone manipulating the outcome.

“It’s important to keep in mind that physicians are not always able or certain how to respond to negative comments,” Dr. Veach said. “This is tough. The most loved physicians are always going to have patients that don’t like them and, unfortunately, those patients are typically the ones that speak out on sites like these. We must remember, that an accusation does not always mean a guilty verdict was ordered.”

How should physician recruitment professionals handle all of this information? Lewistown Hospital CEO Hamilton, advised recruiters to use it with caution, “Find out if the site is posting reputable information. Using a physician leader in the organization to help decipher the information might be a good way to determine its integrity.”
Consider the organization’s ratings

While we may be looking at a physician’s ratings online, physicians are looking at the organization’s ratings. Hamilton recommended that hospital leaders follow this three-step process to improve their online scores:

  1. Raise awareness in the organization and educate others on the importance of the scores. Remind them that physicians are looking at these scores.
  2. Follow the Cleveland Clinic’s example and take it to the grassroots level. It may be as simple as providing a warm blanket or a pillow.
  3. Publicize the data internally. People respond to that.

“Ultimately it’s all about communication, providing for comfort, and being nice,” Hamilton concluded.

Dr. Veach also recommended that physicians follow a three-step process to evaluate the negative responses their clinics are receiving:

  1. Ask the question: “Is this real, does this really reflect us?” Do some soul searching and use objectivity to come to your conclusion.
  2. Evaluate the information internally with the office staff. See if it’s accurate and how you can fix the problem.
  3. Remember: If it’s going to be out there, try and stay on top of it, and always strive for positive comments.

Whether you’re using an online rating site to evaluate a candidate’s potential, or promote your organization based on your excellent scores, you should always be aware of what’s out there. Understand that there are risks taken when using a physician rating site for background checks, so be sure to verify that the information is valid. Make a conscious effort to double, even triple check, all information found online and always, proceed with caution.

Journal of ASPR - Summer 2013

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