Doctors on Angie’s List®: Disrespect or Discussion?

Kiplinger's calls Angie's List "a virtual backyard fence—with talk about the dry cleaner, the drywaller and everything in-between." That discussion now includes doctors. Angie's List is soliciting members' feedback on medical professionals so it can compile ratings in 55 categories, ranging from allergy/immunology to vascular surgery. (They eventually plan to double the number of categories.)

Does inclusion of doctors on Angie's list signal decreasing respect for the training, experience and skills of physicians? Or as Kiplinger's suggests, does it represent a revival of individuals making very personal decisions based on neighbor's recommendations?
Angie's List members grade medical professionals and facilities on price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism using an A through F scale. The questionnaires cover courtesy, comfort, communication and other aspects of the patient experience. From the consumers' view, it makes perfect sense. Most people assess healthcare encounters based on how well their providers relate to them and whether their overall experience was comfortable and convenient. Medical skill, outcomes and especially price seem less important.
While grading physicians in tandem with tradesmen seems to indicate eroding respect, providing a forum where patients can share their experiences is vital to improving healthcare.
Not long ago, managed-care gatekeepers limited open discussion and selection of physicians. The addition of out-of-network options and now advent of healthcare consumerism is changing all that.
Adding medical categories to Angie's List revives and amplifies people's ability to see opinions from neighbors. To its credit Angie's List advises members that its ratings should be used solely to gain perspective on healthcare decisions.
So, is Angie's List dissing docs? Not intentionally. Is it opening discussion? Definitely. Is there a downside to all this? Perhaps.
Patient-experience ratings sites are proliferating rapidly and have overtaken efforts to quantify and publish accurate, useful outcomes data. The best healthcare decisions are made when we balance our physicians' advice with information on service experiences and outcomes.
Angie's list has earned a rightful place among healthcare information resources. But it's vital for people to understand that is is not the only list to consult before choosing a doctor.
— Tom DeSanto

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