So have you seen the latest Angieslist.com commercial? I got a kick out of it, personally, but it got me thinking. Can we trust reviews of health care providers on websites? I know this question has come up plenty of times before on other sites and other forums, but...
The commercial shows a couple in the hospital, the woman very pregnant. A female voice over narrates the scenes. It goes something like this (I am ad-libbing this here, it's not verbatim):
My OB told me I needed to be induced by 41 weeks. So we went into the hospital and pitocin was started. I was told that I needed to get pushing by 1 o'clock because he had an important meeting at 2. But I wasn't dilating and ready to push before he had to leave. So he comes in to say goodbye wearing tennis gear! An hour later I was having a c-section with another doctor.It's quite obvious, I think, to the general public that this narrative shows a poor customer service review (what Angieslist is providing) of this particular doctor. And, ya, this scenario was really shitty in terms of the important meeting being some tennis match. But what the underlying problem I have with this is that a 30 second commercial glosses over other aspects of potentially poor obstetrical care. And this is why online reviews make me a little nervous. Are we, as readers and potential customers of these providers, given the full picture behind the review?
There is so much missing from such a case as described above. Like, was there any evidenced based obstetrical care being provided? For instance, this woman was induced at 41 weeks. Was her cervix favorable? Multip or primip? And why the section? Of course a 30 second commercial can't wrap that up, but would an online review? I mean, how many times have I mentioned here that women, be it family, friends, or random strangers who learn what I do for a living, start telling me about their obstetrical care and birth experiences and don't seem to have a full grasp on the reasons behind the management of their care?
The other factor is that for people who have an ax to grind will write flaming reviews just because they are so angry, whether there is reason to be or not.
A problem I see with hate reviews is that sometimes a patient could be angry over something that would have been solved if there had been some open communication between patient and provider. And yes, patients can initiate that and demand that their provider make time for them to review and discuss their concerns. The flip side of that is a provider who brings in a patient to review their care plans, of which the patient is not following and therefore takes this as an attack when they are being called on the carpet for not following through.
The other thing to consider is that some providers just don't click with some patients; it doesn't make them a bad provider. I can tell you that in all my years in health care as a nurse and now a midwife, there are just some people I click with better than others. But all will get the same care out of me. Just because I don't bond as well with Jane as compared to Mary doesn't mean Mary gets better care. Mary's perception of me will obviously be better, and Jane would probably say I was just okay.
However, before you all go hating on me for sound all against online reviews of health care providers, I think they definitely have their place as well. If enough reviews about a provider are available, and a trend is obvious, then I think they can be useful in deciding if you would want that person or group caring for you. If specifics are being used to support the review, as opposed to "Dr or Midwife So and So are real asswipes and I wouldn't even send my neighbors dog to them", then they can be informative.