Why isn’t there a Zagat guide for doctors? Or a Michelin guide? Or even a Tripadvisor site. I know, there’s a whole bunch of “rate your doctor” sites, that essentially tell you nothing. Very few actually have any substantial ratings in amongst the clutter. Yelp tends to have comments and review on some doctors and medical facilities, it’s almost become the default site for sussing out a doctor’s bedside manner and compatibility. I know, I’ve dated more than a few doctors in my odyssey. Not dating-dating, but gone, seen and discarded a number of them as not being the “doctor for me.” I can’t even begin to tell you how that has impacted my family’s financial status. So how, does one find out if the doctor that you’re going to see will be the one that actually figures out (or cares) what the heck is going on with you, or the one that labels you a hypochondriac after taking substantial amounts of money from you?
– Recommendation by another doctor. Sometimes this works great, which is how I found my new primary care doctor. Dr. Black is very perceptive, and pinpointed my hemochromatosis after almost of five years of seeing other doctors. Dr. Robert Miller, a neurologist, recommended him to me. When Dr. Black decided that I needed to be referred to a hematologist, he sent me to Dr. Knopf. Dr. Black said he respected this guys expertise. I suspect that Dr. Black has never been to Dr.Knopf as patient. All I know is that doctors will never rat out one of their own, even if they’re horrible doctors, they’ll never admit that there’s an incompetent apple in the bushel.
– The hospital website with a list of their physicians. There’s usually a photo of the doctor here. Though doctors may judge you by the way you look, I’d like to think that looks shouldn’t count. Young? Old? Male? Female? Ethnic background? That’s about all you’ll get from the hospital’s website photo.
Of course, you’ll also find out where he/she went to the endless amounts of school and training. As a layperson, I really don’t know (or care) if there’s a difference between a doctor who went to UCSF or John Hopkins. The websites hardly give more information than that, other than letting me know that the receptionist speaks Tagalog. What I really want to know is, has this doctor ever diagnosed a patient with hemochromatosis? Have they seen a case of peripheral neuropathy caused by a vaccine before? Are they easy to talk to, or arrogant and detached? Do they lie to patients instead of saying “I don’t know?”
Then there’s the scant selection of online rating sites. There are some with a slight amount of star ratings – based on “how easy is it to get an appointment” and “length of time to wait in waiting room.” Frankly, if it’s a really good doctor, and one that can help me, I can understand a wait to see him/her. If he’s a crappy doctor, it’s not worth waiting at any cost. These sites might as well have you rate the quality of the waiting room magazines, for all of the information they impart.
Then there’s sites like Yelp. Originally started to review restaurants, and the like, I’ve taken to venting my frustration with particularly bad medical experiences here. Of course, you might be seeing this doc for a completely different reason than me, so the information might not be relevant. I do know that there is a business that has sprung up to “defend” a doctor’s reputation online. For a fee, they will neutralize the bad reviews by adding those “glowing” reviews – if you look closely enough, you can spot them. So, will Yelp give you an accurate view of the medical facility? Hard to tell. I can tell you that I do agree with the reviews for the surgery center at Seton Medical Center, and wished I had paid more heed to them, Although I had selected the doctor for my shoulder surgery, he had selected to do his surgeries there – it wasn’t my choice, really. If I had gone elsewhere, my finger wouldn’t be permanently damaged from the infiltrated IV that was done there. I did feel compelled to comment on this Yelp site about the surgery center – if only because I caught the surgery nurse not wearing gloves when putting my IV in, and the fact that the management at the hospital was unwilling to do anything about it.
Until there’s a transparent and more accurate way to find about a particular doctor’s talent and expertise, there will continue to be unhappy and frustrated patients and the system will never get any better. This is one of the reasons why I will continue to name the doctors and facilities that I have had personal experience with – good or bad in this blog. These are my own personal experiences, and it has cost me quite a lot in terms of money, time, and undiagnosed symptoms progressing while they’ve chosen to pass along the issue to someone else. By sharing my experiences, it’s my hope perhaps someone else can benefit and have a more positive experience in our dysfunctional medical system.
Last week, Dr. Knopf did call me back, and informed he always believes in giving patients a second chance and asked if we could “start again.” Somehow I got the impression that I was not the first patient he’s had this conversation with. Too bad he made it sound like I was the one at fault. I’m not buying it.