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SALT LAKE CITY — When we want to find a good restaurant, hotel, hair stylist or movie, it's easy to check any number of online reviews. But what about selecting a doctor? After all, this is the person who will take care of a most prized possession: your health. That is why the University of Utah health-care system decided to be the first in the nation to electronically survey all its patients and post the results online.
"Initially, I think a lot of physcians were kind of freaked out," according to Dr. Karly Pippett, a family physician at the University of Utah's Sugarhouse Family Health Center. Many of the doctors working at University of Utah hospitals and clinics were afraid of the unknown. In the past, doctors like Pippett internally reviewed patient comments and complaints. But Pippett said, "It was a little scary to think about sharing that with the outside world. And would all comments be shared, both good and bad? And how would that reflect on us as a provider and a person?"
Chrissy Daniels, administrators, and teams across the hospital, created the model and put the doctor ratings online. Daniels is the director of Strategic Initiatives at University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics and said, "Initially, there was concern. I think all of us, every human being, focuses on the negative feedback rather than the positive."
That's why many doctors were surprised by the mostly constructive and positive feedback they got. "I absolutely love this doctor. He was so considerate of my health concerns and answered all of my questions," said Kristen Mauck of the Exceptional Patient Experience, which reviews thousands of patient comments each week. "And if they meet all of our criteria, they will be posted within the month onto our Find a Doctor website," she said.
Dr. Thomas Miller is the chief medical officer at University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. He believes that "patients are becoming empowered to decide what they think about care and they're able to post that and others can see it."
By putting patient comments on the web, Dr. Miller anticipates the feedback will motivate physicians to offer optimum care.
Patients are becoming empowered to decide what they think about care and they're able to post that and others can see it.
–Dr. Thomas MIller, chief medical officer, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics
Dr. Pippett said, "It's helped me be a little more focused on how I am spending my time in the room. Am I making sure I'm explaining things?"
Miller agreed: "Having this information allows us to make changes that our patients appreciate."
Mauck says she's read many negative comments that were very useful. "Our negative comments are very fruitful and helpful for us to determine what to improve and how we can strengthen our services to our patients."
The ratings also give future patients a helping hand in choosing a doctor. "I think it is that trusted resource that your friend or neighbor or colleague was before. Now, for better or worse, we don't have quite as much of that," Dr. Pippett said.
Daniels says it builds trust between patients and doctors and patients themselves. "Anything we can do to build that trust early on and have that chain of trust from one patient to another, we see as a positive."
The program has also generated national attention. At a Transparency Summit in Colorado this month, Daniels discussed the online review system. Three other health-care systems have followed the university's lea, although others are interested. "I've never had an experience like this in my career. I've spoken to hundreds and hundreds of organizations," said Daniels.
Health-care organizations that know online reviews are likely to become a common medical practice. "This is an expectation of the public and the patients in the future. It will happen. If you don't get behind it, someone else will do it for you," Miller said. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org