01 May 2017
Physician rating websites (PRWs) offer health care consumers the opportunity to evaluate their doctor anonymously. However, physicians’ professional training and experience create a vast knowledge gap in medical matters between physicians and patients. This raises ethical concerns about the relevance and significance of health care consumers’ evaluation of physicians’ performance.
To identify the aspects physician rating websites should offer for evaluation, this study investigated the aspects of physicians and their practice relevant for identifying a good doctor, and whether health care consumers are capable of evaluating these aspects.
In a first step, a Delphi study with physicians from 4 specializations was conducted, testing various indicators to identify a good physician. These indicators were theoretically derived from Donabedian, who classifies quality in health care into pillars of structure, process, and outcome. In a second step, a cross-sectional survey with health care consumers in Switzerland (N=211) was launched based on the indicators developed in the Delphi study. Participants were asked to rate the importance of these indicators to identify a good physician and whether they would feel capable to evaluate those aspects after the first visit to a physician. All indicators were ordered into a 4×4 grid based on evaluation and importance, as judged by the physicians and health care consumers. Agreement between the physicians and health care consumers was calculated applying Holsti’s method.
In the majority of aspects, physicians and health care consumers agreed on what facets of care were important and not important to identify a good physician and whether patients were able to evaluate them, yielding a level of agreement of 74.3%. The two parties agreed that the infrastructure, staff, organization, and interpersonal skills are both important for a good physician and can be evaluated by health care consumers. Technical skills of a doctor and outcomes of care were also judged to be very important, but both parties agreed that they would not be evaluable by health care consumers.
Health care consumers in Switzerland show a high appraisal of the importance of physician-approved criteria for assessing health care performance and a moderate self-perception of how capable they are of assessing the quality and performance of a physician. This study supports that health care consumers are differentiating between aspects they perceive they would be able to evaluate after a visit to a physician (such as attributes of structure and the interpersonal skills of a doctor), and others that lay beyond their ability to make an accurate judgment about (such as technical skills of a physician and outcome of care).