“Top Doctor” Lists - A Marketing Scam?
February 26, 2016Source: www.linkedin.com

Money can’t buy you love – unless it’s the love of online reviewers, and for-profit awards. To hear physicians tell it, they are are inundated with “opportunities” by a ceaseless army of marketing organizations that promise to trade money for accolades.

A few thousand dollars can earn a physician a spot in a variety of “Best Doctors” lists. A few thousand dollars can buy a physician top-billing on search engines. And for those whose online reviews are less than stellar, reputation-repair companies will restore a doctor’s good name. For a fee.

These reviews and supposed distinctions are useless and often misleading. The true measure of a provider’s quality is the actual work he/she does. What are their outcomes? Do their patients get better? What is their actual experience?

That is one of the myriad of reasons health systems and hospitals need to get ahead of online trolls and scam marketers by making physician performance transparency a priority.

By providing unbiased, factual performance quality data, health systems can help to match patients with the most appropriate doctors for them. Unfortunately, too few systems do this today, and patients are left with little information that is relevant to their needs. While the government and insurance companies compile data about infection rates, readmission rates, volume and outcomes, for patients is it mostly unavailable. For-profit lists and highly questionable online reviews are often all they have.

Discerning would-be patients might know to avoid for-profit honors. But even when praise isn’t paid for, it is hardly reflective of a physician’s skill. City magazines that promote “Best Doctors” lists use the highly unscientific method of asking other physicians to vote. This leaves consumers with little more than the glossy results of a popularity contest.

Writing about the phenomenon for Slate, New York physician Kent Sepkowitz, M.D., laments, “To my expert eye, every year the New York survey gets it about half right: Half of the selections are first-rate doctors, no doubt about it. Another 25 percent are people whom I don't know well (though I have my doubts), and 25 percent are certifiable duds—doctors who (hopefully) haven't seen a patient in years but have risen to the lofty realm of high society and semi-celebrityhood.”

A good reputation is no substitute for good results. Health systems need to provide performance transparency tools to help direct patients to the best doctors – not the “Best Doctors.”

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Topics: Healthcare