Consumer Reports rates physician practices

June 6, 2012

Consumer Reports has published ratings of physician practices in Massachusetts. See what it takes to get to the top of the list before the survey comes to your state.

Consumer Reports, the publication known for the product tests it has independently conducted for more than 75 years, has just published ratings of physician practices in Massachusetts. And your state may be next.

A special version of the magazine now available for readers in the state includes a story titled “How does uour doctor compare?” and ratings of 329 adult practices and 158 pediatric practices there.

“This is very robust scientific data,” John Santa, MD, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, tells Medical Economics exclusively. “We love the patient experience data because it comes from consumers [who] are responding to more valid questions.”

The findings focus on doctor-patient communication, coordination of medical care, and experiences with front-office staff. It also reveals whether patients would recommend their doctor’s practice to others.

To provide the ratings, Consumer Reports collaborated with Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP), which has conducted its own statewide patient experience surveys for years. Consumer Reports intends to partner with other organizations to provide physician ratings in other states.

The ratings are taken from a scientific survey that asked 47,565 adults and 16,530 parents of children about their experiences with their doctors. All of the patients surveyed had health insurance. Only practices with at least three physicians were rated, not individual doctors. This format sets it apart from the online reviews most doctors loathe.

“This is a survey of 65,000 people. That's a lot of people responding to more valid questions,” Santa says. “These aren't the people whose doctor told them go to the Consumer Reports Web site and say some good things. Nor is it the people who are upset and go to a Web site because they're mad. It's a random sample of patients we know had seen their doctor.”

But it’s not just patients who may find the survey useful. When physicians see how they rank and why, they discover-some for the first time-what their patients actually think. “Many physicians learn which areas they need to do something about, which ones are pretty good, and [where] they can do better,” Santa says.

Doctors with rated practices are given the results in advance. This effort gives them the opportunity to improve the areas patients aren’t happy with-whether it’s not spending enough time with patients or front-office staff members who aren’t as courteous as they should be-before the next survey.

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