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A report card for doctors?

October 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
These days, you can rate and review everything from televisions to hotels to contractors online. But have you ever thought about scoring your doctor? A growing number of Web sites promise to give you a chance to rate your doctor, but can it hurt more than help?When Nancy Foreman needs a doctor, she does her homework.

"I look for their qualifications, and I will interview them on the phone," said Nancy Foreman, who rates doctors online.

But now, before she hits the waiting room -- she also logs on to a "rating room." On a growing number of sites patients can rant, rave, and anonymously review their doctors.

"I liked the fact that I could see how other people rated some of the doctors that I had before, and to see that they had agreed with me or not agreed with me," said Foreman.

Many sites also give medical board information, specialties and education. The creators of RateMDs.com believe scoring sites can offer constructive feedback to doctors and empowerment for patients.

"It can give you a lot of insight into whether you think this would be a doctor who would meet your needs or not," said John Swapceinski, RateMDs.com

Nancy not only researches, but grades her doctors, too.

"I've had a couple of negative. one was with me. I had a doctor, actually I broke my toe, and he told me my toe was healed when it was not healed," said Foreman.

Nancy finds the process therapeutic, but many doctors believe it can be unfair and misleading. The American Medical Association says consumers have no idea who's writing the reviews.

"Simply because you don't know whether that person is even a patient of the doctor they're rating," said AMA president, Dr. Nancy Nielsen.

We spoke with three popular Web sites. Each one has received calls from angry doctors demanding certain postings be removed.

Rebecca Jeschke with the Electronic Frontier Foundation says posting anonymously is a First Amendment right.

"However, if you do defame someone or, you know, say something untrue and harmful on a Web site, your identity could be revealed through the legal process," said Jeschke.

Web creators stress the site is not meant to bash physicians.

"Of all the feedback on the site, about 70-percent of it is positive and only 30-percent is negative," said John Swapceinski, RateMDs.com.

As for Nancy, she always sticks to the facts.

"I think it's very helpful in weeding out the good from the bad doctors," said Foreman.

Many of the sites screen postings, looking to remove any that seem outrageous or contain profanity.

According to RateMDs.com there is a lawsuit filed against one consumer for ratings posted about a Canadian doctor. The Web site was forced to hand over the consumer's IP address.


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