Shopping For A Doctor Vs. A Dishwasher

December 14, 2011 in News

This is a perfect illustration of Healthcare Savvy’s reason for being: The Washington Post’s great WonkBlog writes here about how much effort people devote to shopping for a doctor vs. an appliance. You guessed it, the appliances win, hands down. But of course, it’s not for lack of interest or desire on the part of the health care consumers — it’s because we just don’t have as much data on doctors as dishwashers, for all sorts of reasons…Sarah Kliff writes:

This is surprising in the context of what a big chunk of consumer budgets go toward health care: The average family with employer-sponsored insurance spends $10,944 on premiums each year. But it’s perhaps explained by one of the survey’s other findings. Americans might not shop for health care because they have little confidence in their ability to do so. Shopping for a doctor is a lot harder than shopping for a dishwasher. There’s no price tag for what you’ll pay, or a Consumer Report to reference on quality. That might be one reason that Americans spend relatively little time thinking about their health-care spending choices: They don’t believe they’ll make a better choice for the cost or quality of care they receive.

Excellent comments follow, including:

“Doctors complain that a patient’s unique circumstances make it impossible to judge the patient outcome based on something the doctor did (or didn’t) do. I haven’t yet heard of an effort by physicians to help implement a ratings system that would be fair to both the patients and the doctors. There are a lot of stories about doctors fighting tooth and nail to keep such ratings systems down …

Even Angie’s List who claims to have physician reviews have remarkably few reviews. I’m not sure how you give patients anonymity (to assure honest opinions) while protecting them from a backlash from the physician and protecting doctors from people with an axe to grind.

I don’t have an answer for this problem, but doctors feeling like no one has the right to judge them is the first problem that will have to be dealt with.”

2 responses to Shopping For A Doctor Vs. A Dishwasher

  1. Hey @psbetcha – it strikes me that the insurance tiering plans are the insurers telling us how doctors stack up and how much we’ll have to pay based on the ratings. But as you point out, the system is not clear or user friendly.

  2. I think many docs fear that it would be the unhappy people motivated to post reviews/ratings, although that might not be true in reality.

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