Articles and Case Studies

Rate My Doctor

15 Mar 2017

by Ben Bravery

doctor rating

I use AirBnB to book apartments, AirTasker to get furniture assembled, and Uber to get across town. So why not use an app to find the best doctor?

A simple rating doesn’t tell the whole story

Whitecoat is the latest in a run of disruptive technologies allowing consumers to make decisions based on reviews. It was created by health insurance giant NIB (more on that in a moment).

For many afflicted with illness, this is wonderful news. I know. I was once a cancer patient.

When choosing a doctor I was wracked with uncertainty. One surgeon had a pretty straightforward treatment plan on offer, the second more complicated. When facing a real possibility of death, which way do you go?

Yet, what I needed at that point was not the best doctor. I needed the best doctor for me. And, as much as I wish it did, a star-rating system such as Whitecoat doesn't help with that decision. The "rate-my-doctor" platforms oversimplify the doctor–patient relationship. Here's why.

The relationship between a doctor and patient is an intimate one, full of nuance and complexity. Modern patients are increasingly independent and informed, but remain vulnerable and scared. I was scared the first time I met with my cancer surgeon and I've been scared every time since.

Each cancer check-up for me is a mix of anxiety, sadness, gratitude, joy, waiting... and needles. I couldn't possibly reduce such a rollercoaster of experiences, not to mention emotions, to a 5-star rating. My treatment team and I are just so much more than that!

Neither doctors nor patients can be reduced to a simple rating, like a restaurant or a new film. The doctor–patient relationship isn't like finding a handyperson or the best latte. It's often a life-changing relationship based on intimacy, fear, compassion and trust.

Seeing things from a different perspective

Now, as a medical student training to become a doctor myself, I am also seeing another side – how difficult it is to diagnose, care for, and manage complex conditions. Doctors have a hard job compounded by an enormous, bureaucratic system around them. Lots of decisions are out of their control, making measuring their performance a bewildering business.

As a patient-turned-doctor, I do want more power for patients. But the unique nature of the doctor–patient relationship needs a unique approach, and I'm not convinced this can be achieved by a space carved out by insurers. It makes me wary that NIB, Bupa and HBF are behind Whitecoat. It's like Hilton starting AirBnB, or Cabcharge starting Uber.

To truly upset an established but often stale system (which you could argue much of modern medical care is), outsiders or consumers desperate for change must come in. Not companies with existing power, who gain by continuing to optimise profits and focus on established networks.

There is a role for the 2.0 web and disruptive, patient-centred technology. But going down the route of "rate-my-doctor" and reducing all the care, attention and complexity of the medical process to a few gold stars in the process is surely not the right path.

Ben Bravery
Year 3 Medical student
The University of Notre Dame Australia

 You can follow Ben on Twitter @benbravery


See the medico-legal feature by Dr Sara Bird – How Does My Doctor Rate.

Technology, Anaesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Intensive Care Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Practice Manager Or Owner, Psychiatry, Radiology, Sports Medicine, Surgery, Physician, Geriatric Medicine, Cardiology, Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery, Radiation Oncology, Paediatrics, Independent Medical Assessor - IME
 

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