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Consumer Reports New Ratings of Doctors: It's All About Patient Experience

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Consumer Reports magazine coverMassachusetts primary care physician groups—some 500 of them—are the focus of a first-in-the-nation comparison from Consumer Reports. As we see it, medical providers, practices, and healthcare and medical practice marketing professionals in the other 49 states will want to take note for several key reasons:

1. Ratings primarily reflect the “patient experience”—and are marketing significant. In the future, Consumer Reports may expand the concept to publish information about clinical/medical outcomes and cost comparisons, according to published interviews. But this inaugural report is largely patient-centric. (More about this follows.)

2. Consumer Reports has considerable “street cred.” Although “doctor ratings” are not new, the widely respected Consumer Reports [over 7 million paid subscribers] has a reputation for being a trusted, independent and unbiased organization. They've been around since 1936 and—for the sake of pure impartiality—the pub doesn’t have paid advertising. Unlike many other sources, this is one “doctor rating” with strong patient influence.

3. It’s likely that Consumer Reports will expand to include medical practices in other states and specialties. It already publishes comparative ratings for consumers about cardiac surgery groups, US hospitals and prescription medications. Health-related topics and physician information is increasingly sought after by the public, and we speculate that this category will expand even more soon.

Patients’ perspective on Massachusetts is more marketing than clinical.

Related: 9 Essential Steps to Improve Doctor Ratings Online

You can read the entire Consumer Reports information [here] as a 24-page special edition titled, How Does Your Doctor Compare? The data represents information from 329 adult practices and 158 pediatric practices (with three or more providers), and draws on patient experience surveys by Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP).

It presents authoritative statewide data about patient experience and includes input from over 47,000 adults and over 16,000 parents. The experiential information centers on patient responses to questions (and feelings about) about how well doctors…

  • Know their patients,
  • Communicate with their patients,
  • Coordinate their patients’ medical care,
  • Give preventive care and advice,
  • And whether patients would recommend their doctor to others.

Additional questions polled patients about their interactions with—and how they felt about—dealings with the practice nurses, receptionists and billing and insurance support staff.

Some of the findings, according to a Consumer Reports and MHQP release, include:

  • Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said their doctor was always informed and up-to-date about the care they received from specialists.
  • Seventy-two percent said someone always followed up with them to provide results on blood tests, X-rays, or other tests.
  • Fifty-seven percent said the front-office staff was always as helpful as they should be.
  • Thirty-eight percent said they didn't always get an appointment for care they needed right away and the same percent said they didn't always get after hours advice they needed right away.
  • Sixty percent of patients said they didn't always get taken to the exam room within 15 minutes.
  • Forty eight percent said they weren't always seen by their provider within 15 minutes after being taken to the exam room.

An important marketing take-away for doctors everywhere—and all of us concerned about quality of care—is that experience is a significant barometer for patients. This is increasingly evident as the patient’s voice is vital to delivery of patient centered care.

The Consumer Reports information is recommended reading for physicians and provider marketing personnel as insightful intelligence about how physician practices are being evaluated and the growing importance of the patient experience in medical practice marketing.

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