“Hey Doc, I hope you don’t mind that I looked you up?”
“Bob, are you stalking me again?”
“No, I checked you out online at that Rate-Your-MD thingy.”
In case you have been living without Internet access in a cave somewhere in Outer Mongolia, sites exist where people can leave reviews about their physician (or lawyer, teacher, or other professional). The problem with these sites is that anyone can leave a review, and often it is a patient who has a bone to pick who trashes you as a leaving gesture (I know who you are). Also, since the reviews are anonymous, a physician or their friends and family members could leave fabulous reviews that benefit their own interests. Therefore, as a rule I avoid visiting these sites, but I do hear about snippets of what is on them thanks to caring patients like Bob.
Recently I was searching a colleague’s phone number online when the URL for their ratings popped up. I clicked on it out of curiosity and had to admit that the reviews (apart from a few wing nuts) accurately reflected what I knew about the individual. Steeling myself, I decided that it was time to look at my reviews as an exercise in self-reflection.
Not without a little trepidation, I clicked on the link and one of the first comments I read was about how much an ex-patient hates me and sees through my fake smile. So, okay, not the start I was hoping for.
This site scores physicians from one to five in four categories—staff, punctuality, helpfulness, and knowledge. I studied the comments and scores in each category and reflected.
Staff: overall, my staff received a good mark, which was a complete surprise to me as I work with them and know what they are really like. But, seriously, I believe in my staff and admire the work that they do and want to thank them.
Punctuality: anyone who knows me recognizes that I deserve top marks here and anyone who gives me less than five in this category is a liar. Even the patient who trashed me (I know who you are) and gave me ones in every other category gave me a five for punctuality.
Helpfulness: the common theme in this category is that it takes up to 2 weeks to get a regular appointment with me. A comment that resonated was, “How can your doctor be helpful when it takes so long to get in to see him?” I take this one to heart. I offer same-day appointments for emergencies, but I realize that for some who don’t need to be seen urgently that 2 weeks is too far into the future. I’m not sure what the solution is here. I try to fit patients in where I am able but there are too many patients and not enough GPs. In my community seven family physicians are retiring at the end of this year. Long-term, fabulous patients often ask me to take on family members and friends. Lately, with regret, I have had to say no to these reasonable requests as it isn’t fair to current patients. I could work more days and longer hours, but then I would hate myself and everyone around me. I am sure I’m not the only one facing this issue and despite the A GP for Me program I don’t see an end in sight.
Knowledge: my patients seem to believe that I am knowledgeable, which is a testament to my stealthy ability to pause and clean my glasses while I secretly search UpToDate on my computer. Over the years I have learned that saying, “I don’t know but will find out for you,” goes a long way. Patients never seem to mind that I don’t have all the wisdom stored in my aging grey matter. Also, having the ability to appreciate one’s limitations and knowing when to refer is a skill I have fostered over the years.
Overall, I survived reading my own reviews and perhaps learned a few things. It is an interesting exercise and can lead to some soul searching once you throw out some of the outliers (I know who you are*).
*This repeated reference is for comedic purposes and shouldn’t be interpreted in any way as a desperate cry for revenge.
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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
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