Zagat Survey asks patients to critique their physicians

September 9, 2008

Long waits, unfriendly staff, and big copays could rival cold entrees in healthcare reviews posted on Internet Diners have long relied on Zagat Survey for guidance when choosing a restaurant. Now, patients in several large U.S. cities will have a chance to use the same consumer-based rating service to choose a physician.

Long waits, unfriendly staff, and big copays could rival cold entrees in healthcare reviews posted on Internet

Diners have long relied on Zagat Survey for guidance when choosing a restaurant. Now, patients in several large U.S. cities will have a chance to use the same consumer-based rating service to choose a physician.

In January, WellPoint, a healthcare benefit firm in Indianapolis, launched an online physician survey tool in partnership with Zagat Survey, the renowned dining, travel, and leisure rating guide. It has been made available so far to one million of WellPoint's patient members affiliated with one of its Blue Cross/Blue Shield subsidiaries in Los Angeles and in Ohio and Con¬necticut. The company has nearly 35 million members nationwide. About one in nine U.S. doctors participates in the WellPoint network.

The partnership offers WellPoint the benefit of Zagat's expertise in assessing consumer experiences as well as the clout of its famous brand name, said Jill A. Becher, WellPoint's public relations director.

Patients will use the same 30-point scale Zagat developed for restaurants, but they will get to rate doctors on trust, communication, availability, environment, and cost. Ratings on network physicians will be displayed only after they reach a minimum number.

The system features safeguards to verify members have actually visited the doctors they are rating. Providers will have access to survey results, but they will not be able to respond directly to consumers or rate themselves, Becher said.

"Access to the survey information is provided entirely for the benefit of the providers in understanding their patients' experience and opinions and is not in any way tied to benefit or physician reimbursement levels or performance assessment," Becher said.

Though 90% of the reviews are positive, the Zagat Survey and similar programs are inherently subject to criticism because subjective reports are always prone to bias, said Dr. Jonathan Berlin, an associate professor of radiology at Northwestern University and practitioner at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare.

"Presumably, there's truth in numbers, but (the survey) is definitely controversial in the sense that WellPoint is using the subjective perception of patients who walk into our offices," he said.

-By H.A. Abella

Related Content:

Facility Management