Is Your Physician Zagat Rated?

March 6th, 2009 | Sources: NY Times

zagatIn a move guaranteed to give physicians the heebie-jeebies, insurance giant WellPoint has inked a deal with restaurant provocateur Zagat to publish reviews of doctors.

The result will be a scorecard covering areas like communication and trust that will be viewable only by WellPoint’s 35 million enrollees.

Nina Zagat told the New York Times that unlike their hotel, spa, nightlife and food reviewers, patients are discouraged from being pithy or witty which hopefully means we’ll be spared reading about how a physician’s “onion-breath” and the “dreary waiting room” made the experience “hit-or-miss.”

Apparently more than 75% of patients given the opportunity are posting comments, and 88% recommend their physician.

That may be, but physicians in Connecticut, California and North Carolina, where the idea is being piloted, have panned the project.

scientificratingsystem“It is curious that they would go to a company that had no experience in health care to try to find out how good a doctor is,” William Handelman, the president of the Connecticut State Medical Society told the Times. 

To which Arthur Caplan added, “there is no correlation between a doctor being an inept danger to the patient and his popularity.”

The director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that reviewing physicians is “a recipe for disaster.”

Nina Z. responded that the ratings aren’t intended to be a primary driver in selecting physicians. It’s more like a companion guide to help people pick from a menu of specialists recommended by their primary care doctors.

“One patient might…care more about communications skills,” she told the Times. For another, “having a modern, attractive office may lead to a different choice.”



  1. Marilyn Mann | 8/03/09

    Physician rating is already going on. I live near Washington, D.C., and a nonprofit publishes a magazine called Consumer’s Checkbook that surveys their readers with respect to their experience with local doctors. It is also common on the list serv for parents of kids at my daughter’s high school for people to ask for doctor recommendations. I myself don’t put a lot of weight on such opinions but I would not totally discount them either. If 10 different people said that a doctor was rude and overbearing that would certainly make me wonder about whether I wanted to go to that doctor, especially since I live in an area where there are usually many doctors in any particular specialty, giving me lots of choices.

    I would agree that the average layperson is not qualified to judge differences in quality of care between different doctors, although though there are exceptions to that.

  2. Marilyn Mann | 8/03/09

    Another thought: apparently some doctors are asking their patients to sign waivers saying they will not post negative comments on ratings web sites. This is a bad idea, for the reasons discussed in this Consumer Reports Health Blog post:

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