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Want to try a new restaurant? Read online reviews. Need to hire a plumber? Online reviews will give you good options. Need surgery? Suddenly you’re wondering if online reviews are sufficient to make a choice. After all, do you choose a surgeon the same way you choose a hotel room? In a word: Yes. Reviews of doctors, their clinics and the hospitals they work in are increasingly prevalent online and therefore increasingly useful.
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What You Need to Know about Patient Reviews of Doctors
Want to try a new restaurant? Read online reviews. Need to hire a plumber? Online reviews will give you good options. Need surgery? Suddenly you’re wondering if online reviews are sufficient to make a choice. After all, do you choose a surgeon the same way you choose a hotel room? In a word: Yes. Reviews of doctors, their clinics and the hospitals they work in are increasingly prevalent online and therefore increasingly useful. You can find patient reviews of doctors on many websites, but as you start to work your way through anecdotes and complaints, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Ranking Websites Aren’t Perfect
Ranking websites offer patient opinions rather than facts about a doctor’s performance. While patient experience is important, a doctor’s job has many facets, and not all of those will be adequately judged by patient opinion. One doctor may have a cold bedside manner but an impressive track record in the operating room, while another has four pending malpractice suits but is charming when you visit his office for a routine appointment.
Going by other’s opinions will not give you a full picture, so be sure to use patient review sites as a useful tool in conjunction with other available sources of information.
Note Trends, Not Just Specifics
When you sit down to read patient reviews of doctors, leave yourself plenty of time. The more reviews you read and the more sites you read them from, the more trends you can notice – and that is what you are looking from. While a single mention of rude office staff is worth noting, it is much more worrisome if a full eighty percent of the reviews mention how rude the nurse and office manager are to older patients.
Look for Outliers
Also, by searching for trends over as many reviews as possible, you are going to be able to spot the outliers with increasing ease. If nine out of ten reviews praise the doctor’s thorough manner and friendly demeanor, the one review that claims the doctor is rude and hateful is going to stand out as being out of character. The same is true as well in reverse. If one patient praises the doctor, but nineteen others claim to have had problems, it makes you skeptical about that single patient’s actual experience. This isn’t to say outliers aren’t good information, but everyone has an isolated bad day – even doctors.
Public Opinion Isn’t Everything
Rating websites for doctors don’t tell the whole story. In some cases, the story can be easily obscured by paid sponsorships or advertisements. On some patient review websites, doctors are able to pay for advertising or to be in “sponsored” positions near the top of the reviews and rankings, despite what the reviews actually say.
Other clinics have learned how to work within the review website framework to better promote themselves and actively solicit positive reviews from patients, much like restaurants and service providers do. This creates a skewed sense of public opinion at times – all the more reason to read multiple review websites and back up your findings with other data.
Consider the Natural Order of Reviews
The majority of reviews are not made when we are immensely satisfied with our experiences, but when we are not. This means you may not find an overwhelming number of reviews about your doctor online simply because nobody has many negative experiences to share. That’s a good thing.
This is especially true with specialized doctors who see fewer patients. Specialists handle specific needs and often patients don’t “shop around” for a specialist when they need emergency surgery or have a condition that requires urgent critical care. The more specialized a doctor is, the less you can expect to find about him or her online simply because specialists often see fewer patients, usually on referral from other doctors or through a hospital system. You might be able to get more information by looking up the clinic, hospital network or asking others in your area who have had similar procedures.
Two reviews sharing negative things for a doctor who has practiced in your area for fifteen years are meaningful not just in the content of the reviews, but primarily because only two patients out of potentially thousands had anything negative to say.
All the reviews in the world don’t matter much if they aren’t discussing things that are important to you personally. For some, a friendly doctor is a must-have. Others don’t mind a sharper personality if it means efficient results and honest feedback.
Look at all doctor reviews with an eye for the patient reviews that matter most to you. Your choice on a doctor should not just be based on how much someone else likes his great ties or his charming smile.
How to Find a Good Doctor for Your Family
As your family grows or as you begin to notice changes in your own health, it’s time to find a good doctor. While patient reviews of doctors and clinics are important, there are other resources to consider and strategies to use as you narrow down your choices to find a good primary care doctor.
Consider a Primary Care Physician Your General Contractor
Insurance companies like a primary care physician and you should, too. He or she will become your starting point for all future health concerns ranging from ear infections to life-changing surgeries. You want to pick an honest doctor with a convenient location and a strong network of specialists. A strong network should allow future services to work smoothly together with minimized duplicate services and tests.
Ask People You Know and Trust
You can find thousands of reviews online for doctors and their clinics. These are valuable, but even more valuable are the opinions of others you know. Ask for recommendations from friends and family members. Then you can temper their recommendations with what you know about the recommender.
Perform Deep Research
After you have a few key candidates for a new doctor in mind, take each for a test drive with a bit more phone and internet research. Check for the following:
- Does the doctor take your insurance? Insurance coverage seems to change with the weather, so a phone call is the best choice here.
- Which hospital or hospital network is the doctor affiliated with? Hospital ratings vary wildly, and you want to be sure you like both the doctor, his or her connections and admitting hospital.
- Is the doctor board certified with the required continuing education? Check certificationmatters.org for assurances.
- Are you and the doctor compatible? Some patients don’t mind a brusque bedside manner with no pulled punches. Others prefer a gentler approach.
- Are you comfortable with office policies? Check the requirements for setting up and changing appointments as well as waiting times and cancellations.
- Do you get along with the office staff? The doctor’s staff including the administrators and nurses are all part of the experience. It should be a good one.
- Is an electronic system in use? Electronic systems help doctors chart information and share relevant information within a system or with other specialists. You should have access to your records through the patient-side of the portal as well.
- Are there glaring concerns or red flags? Look for doctor sanctions and malpractice claims. This will require a bit of internet digging, but can give you even more information than individual reviews online.
The relationship between a patient and his primary care physician can deeply influence his overall medical experience. The goal is not to just find someone to do a check-up from time to time, but to build a trust between doctor and patient in order to facilitate all levels of care moving forward.
11 Ways to Improve Your Hospital Stay
Hospitals are not health spas, and you expect certain discomforts and inconveniences when you or a loved one stays overnight. But while there isn’t much you can do about hallway noise or a pesky IV, you can improve your hospital stay in some ways.
Bring Some Hotel Toiletries
If you want to avoid the institutional soaps and harsh tissues in the hospital, simply bring your own from home. A few travel items from your last stop in a decent hotel will allow you to skip the hard stuff in your hospital room.
Bring Comforts from Home
You can bring your own pillows with you to the hospital – provided you don’t go overboard. There often seems to be a shortage of pillows, so bring a favorite or two from home to help you get more comfortable.
Ask about Other Comforts
You are well within your rights and expectations to ask about comforts while you stay in the hospital. It can’t hurt you to ask for a rollaway bed if you’re staying with a loved one or a parking or cafeteria voucher for longer stays.
The secret to regaining strength in the hospital is to move as much as possible once you have your doctor’s permission. Taking a shuffling walk will get your muscles and body systems working properly again, and you may be able to leave the hospital days sooner than you would otherwise.
Keep Asking Questions
Ask about anything you’re curious about. The medical staff is anticipating questions and should be patient with you while you try and sort through the tremendous amount of stimuli you’re experiencing.
Write It Down
A simple notebook and pen will do a lot to ease your mind while you’re recovering. You can chart your medications, keep track of visitors and gifts, write down questions and concerns as they occur to you and take some notes from each conversation you have with every doctor who comes through your room during your stay.
Request a Break
Ask the doctor if you can spend a portion of the night in uninterrupted sleep. The doctor may be able to give you permission if your condition is stable and you don’t need certain procedures or medications.
Spend the night with your loved one on a pull-out bed or hire an attendant to do so if you can’t stay. By staying close, you can listen for changes in breathing or other indications of a change in condition or help your loved one if he wakes up disoriented or confused.
Request a Special Visitor
Many hospitals offer programs that include service animals. If you’re an animal lover or know that your loved one is struggling, ask if the hospital has a service dog partnership and if a furry friend can come by and visit.
Don’t Leave before You’re Ready
If you feel your condition is not quite as stable as the hospital staff are indicating, know that you have rights to stay in higher levels of care like the ICU, even if staff are trying to free up the beds for other patients. If you are feeling pressured to transfer to a different, stepped-down, unit before you feel it is time, refuse to move until you have a chance to speak with a hospital advocate or administrator.
Advocate for a New Doctor
Many patients don’t realize that they have a choice when it comes to the doctor you’re seeing. If you have a bad interaction with an assigned doctor, you can advocate for your own care and request a different physician.
Hospital stays are stressful. While you can’t change the nature of what has brought you to the hospital, it is possible to make your stay just a bit more enjoyable. Or if that is still asking too much, with just a few bit of extra knowledge, you can make your recovery time just a bit less tedious and nerve-wracking, at least.