Why are there no doctor reviews on the web?

The N.Y. Times has an interesting article citing a number of reasons why there are no good websites with doctors reviews on the web.  There are some ratings websites (HealthGradesRateMDs, Angie’s List, Yelp), but the listings are often sparse, with few contributors and little of substance.)

For one, physicians don’t like them.

Several years ago, a physician reputation management service called Medical Justice developed a sort of liability vaccine. Doctors would ask patients to sign an agreement promising not to post about the doctor online; in exchange, patients would get additional privacy protections.

…when I shared my feelings with the company, I was informed that the agreements had outlived their usefulness. What neither its vice president of marketing, Shane Stadler, nor its founder and chief executive, Jeffrey Segal, told me, however, was that the company had retired the agreements in the wake of a lawsuit related to them and a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

The American Medical Association (AMA), unsurprisingly, stands behind the doctors.  A statement from AMA president, Dr. Peter W. Carmel stated,

Anonymous online opinions of physicians should be taken with grain of salt and should not be a patient’s sole source of information when looking for a new physician.

Dr. Carmel followed up by saying:

To advise people anonymously through an open site when this is an important decision for people’s lives, I don’t think it’s proper.  The evidence that’s given on many of these consumer sites is undocumented, unverified and anonymous. It may well have nothing to do with actual patient treatment.

Another reason there are so few reviews are that people do not want to offend their doctor.  They are worried that if their physician reads a poor review from a patient, they may provide inferior care to the patient.  Further, “if they live in a small town or are only one or two degrees of social separation from physicians or their family members, they may not want to create any awkwardness.”

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