Is it possible to know if you’re getting the best healthcare available?
Probably not in the same way that science can prove which laundry detergent cleans clothes most effectively. Healthcare is made up of far too many variables to offer a strictly quantifiable ranking of the best or worst.
But, there are things you can do to learn a little more about the physicians you’re using or considering. In fact, they are things that you should do. And you should have been doing them for years.
OK, enough of the lecture. If you haven’t been researching your providers, it’s time to start. What we’ll give you here are a few suggestions of places to look and what kind of information you can expect from those resources. It’s nearly impossible to find web sites that offer subjective judgments on physicians. There are simply too many liability issues.
But there are four types of reviews you can find.
1. Sites where patients and former patients “review” their doctors.
These sites can be helpful. But you have to take them with a substantial grain of salt. Some of these critiques are likely to come from disgruntled former patients. There is no way to know if what they are saying is accurate or not. But if you read 10 evaluations in a row saying a doctor runs notoriously behind on his appointments, it may just be true.
Here are a few that seem a little more level-headed:
- HealthGrades.com. Straightforward, not doctor-bashing. Doctors and the qualities of their offices and practices are given star ratings. It also provides you with information about possible sanctions or medical board actions, though those should always be confirmed.
- RateMDs.com. This site is quite good for locating MDs. But the interface is clunky and, in the searches we attempted, the information patchy and out of date.
- Vitals.com. Well laid out, filled with easy-to-find information, this is one of the best physician information sites out there. There are even ratings on things like promptness, bedside manner and a physician’s willingness to offer meaningful follow-up.
There are many others, though. Don’t be afraid to look for more physician ratings sites.
2. State Medical Boards
State medical boards are supposed to keep current information about whether physicians’ licenses are up to date and if any actions have been taken against them. Generally the boards’ web sites are quite good. In Ohio, for instance, information is nearly always available within 48 hours. Odds are that you’ll find nothing negative about your physician. But it’s worth looking into.
Cincinnati seniors can go here to find information about Ohio doctors.
3. Other published sources
Some publications like to research physicians and then share the information they have. Some are professional journals that you are likely to find only in a library. But others are mass media publications. In the same way that you may see listings of the Best Universities or Best Business Schools, there are those who offer consumers lists of Nest Physicians.
Here in southwest Ohio, Cincinnati Magazine offers the results of its annual survey of physicians. The magazine sends more than 5,000 surveys to licensed physicians in Hamilton, Warren, Butler, Clermont, Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Dearborn counties.
The most telling question on the survey is who the recipient turns to if “you, a family member, or a friend needed medical attention.”
It’s an excellent, if not scientific, list. Subscribers can access it online, but, otherwise, you need to trek to the local library and read the copy in the library stacks.
4. Trusted Friends and Family
Last but not least, there is that old-fashioned, but highly reliable ratings service – your friends and family. There is other good information out there. But friends who have visited a physician can often provide more nuanced evaluations. Ask. And then listen.