When searching for a new doctor, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re probably hoping for a bedside manner thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more McDreamy than Dr. House. And while itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tempting to scour online reviews, they may not lead you to the best choice. It turns out that physician review websites arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always reliable, according to a new study from Loyola University Medical Center.
Researchers randomly selected 500 urologists in the United States and examined 10 free physician review websites (like Healthgrades.com or Vitals.com). They found that 79.6% of the doctors were rated on at least one of the sites, with 86% receiving positive ratings and 36% boasting highly positive ratings. Unfortunately, those composite scores were based on an average of just 2.4 ratings! That glowing recommendation doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem so legitimate coming from less than three people, does it?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Patients should absolutely be cautious if theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re using this to assess their physicians,Ã¢â‚¬Â says lead study author Chandy Ellimoottil, M.D., urology resident at Loyola University Medical Center. Ã¢â‚¬Å“TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re based on very few ratings, and you have no idea who put those ratings in.Ã¢â‚¬Â For instance, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll never know if a negative score was from an angry patient or just a competing physician. And even more concerning for patients, those stellar reviews may have been written by the doctor himself. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Until you have hundreds of patients writing reviews, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be sure of the accuracy,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Ellimoottil.
So leave online review sites for a less serious searchÃ¢â‚¬”like the best Thai takeoutÃ¢â‚¬”and stick to traditional methods for finding a great doctor.
Start the search before youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re sick It may seem like a hassle, but the best time to search for a new doctor is actually when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re healthy. That way, you can explore your options without settling for the nearest nurse with a prescription pad. Ã¢â‚¬Å“At least for primary care doctors, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always a good idea to try a couple and find someone youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really comfortable with,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Ellimoottil. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That needs to be worked out before you get sick.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hit up friends and family Word of mouth is always an option, says Ellimoottil. But, as with blind dates, this introduction needs to come from someone you trust. Ask your girlfriends or family members if they know any great physicians in the area. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re more likely to tell you the truth when it comes to long wait times or a not-so-gentle dentist.
Get a referral for specialists If you already have a primary care doctor you love, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wise to get his recommendation for a specialist, says Ellimoottil. Since theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re likely familiar with your insurance and medical history, they have all the information they need to make an informed suggestion.
Use online tools sparingly If you absolutely must go online to find a doctor, be smart about it. Pay special attention to the number of ratings that contribute to a doctorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s score. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Somewhere between 50-70 reviews would be a safe point,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Ellimoottil. And feel free to look there for objective information, like a doctorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s education and board certification. But when it comes to the written reviews, take them with a grain of salt.
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hesitate to get a second opinion Even though it may feel like youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re cheating on your doctor, you shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel bad about scheduling consultations elsewhere if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re unsure about something. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If you have a diagnosis that requires surgery, I always recommend getting a second opinion,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Ellimoottil.
Trust your gut Regardless of the reviews, your physician needs to be someone you can trust. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You have to feel good about your doctor, and you have to know they care about you,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Ellimoottil. Plus, a positive doctor-patient relationship will ensure that you actually go to your annual check-ups. If the chemistry isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t right, it may be time to dump your Dr. and find a better fit.
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