You're Not on the 'Best Doctors' List -- Does It Matter?

Shelly Reese

Disclosures

May 28, 2014

In This Article

Just a Popularity Contest?

Betsy Tuttle-Newhall, MD, Division Chief of Transplant Surgery at St. Louis University, who likewise earns top marks from patients on Healthgrades, has a different take on the lists. She hasn't been nominated for one, she says. A relative newcomer to St. Louis, she regards the local top doctors list as "a popularity contest" rather than affirmation of clinical skills.

"CMS tracks my performance. They know my mortalities and my length of stays," she says. "I know I'm above standard of care, but I never make this list in town."

Jim Chase, President of Minnesota Community Measurement (MNCM), a nonprofit organization that collects performance data on physicians in the state, says the lists may be revenue generators for the magazines and PR opportunities for the showcased doctors, "but they're not very important to the quality side or to directing people to the right care providers."

He says that about eight years ago, MNCM approached Minnesota Monthly about incorporating their patient satisfaction data into its "best doctors" issue.

"They weren't interested," Chase says. "They didn't want to alienate the doctors. They were worried that if the physicians didn't like the kind of data we were publishing -- because we publish both the good and the bad -- they wouldn't advertise with them."

But What Does the Patient Think?

While doctors may have mixed feelings about the lists, consumer reaction is even harder to gauge.

It's unclear how much stock the public puts in the lists, which emphasize doctors' opinions. It would be hard to make a case that they have no value to the public. However, there is solid evidence that patients value the insights of their fellow patients when selecting a doctor and that they do consult doctor-rating Websites.

In a survey of more than 2100 Internet users, 59% say Internet ratings on sites such as Yelp, Healthgrades, and RateMDs are at least "somewhat important" in choosing a doctor, according to a report published in the February 19 issue of JAMA.[1] Of those, 19% say Internet reviews are "very important."

Patient review sites may be imperfect, but Chase notes that they discuss not only the doctor but also the staff, wait times, follow-up, and other issues that are critical to the patient experience.

"Patient behavior has changed," Kanaan says. "There are a gazillion doctors out there and patients are confused. They go online just as they would go searching for something to buy. I don't see these 'best' lists competing in the online space."

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