Zagat, WellPoint To Allow Customers To Rank Physicians

Armen Hareyan's picture

Ranking Physicians

The Chicago Tribune on Sunday examined a partnership between Zagat Survey and WellPoint that will allow consumers to rate physicians (Deardorff, Chicago Tribune,11/4). WellPoint in the next several months will release an onlinephysician ranking guide based on patient input to more than one millionmembers. The guide will rank physicians based on trust, communication,availability and office environment on a 30-point scale. The guide alsowill include patient comments. At least 10 responses about a physicianwill be required before any information is posted about them. Theratings guide will not include information on medical expertise andwill not be based on claims data, health plan-generated data or otherfactors, such as medical malpractice settlements. WellPoint plans toroll out the survey tool to all of its 35 million members (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/22).

Suchphysician ranking sites provide transparency and are part ofconsumer-driven health, according to some consumer health advocates.However, some states and the American Medical Associationsay that ranking sites run by health insurers might poseconflict-of-interest problems. AMA President-Elect Nancy Nielsen said,"The integrity of this information can be undermined by a healthinsurer's corporate profit motive." Rita Schwab, a professional inmedical credentialing, said, "They may provide patients with somevaluable information not easily obtained elsewhere, but all theinformation provided on these sites is subject to serious reliabilityissues."


WellPoint says that the site is different from othersbecause it does not use claims data and instead is "solely designed toreflect a consumer's experience with a physician and not to reflect thequality of care they received." Zagat co-founder Nina Zagat said thatit will give "consumers the power to make smart decisions aboutselecting doctors based on other people's experiences" (Chicago Tribune, 11/4).


The new WellPoint-Zagat guide is "hardly the first effort to makedoctor information more widely available," and although current sourcesare "useful," when "taken together, available doctor information is,well, pretty weak medicine," the Los Angeles Timeswrites in an editorial. It continues, "If you're looking for a one-stopsite that mixes qualitative and quantitative data, includinginformation about outcomes, legal actions, education, specialties,feedback from other patients, costs, relevant comparisons and othertips that rise above the scuttlebutt level, you may find parts of it,but you won't find it all in one place."

The editorial statesthat there are only a few things "more frustrating than trying to getinformation about medical costs and outcomes before committing to aprocedure." The Times concludes that the WellPoint-Zagatguide is "another small step toward making your choice of doctors asinformed as your choice of burgers" (Los Angeles Times, 11/4).


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