Medical Offices: Where Doctor Rating Sites Fall Short

Like auto repair shops and restaurants, doctors are now subject to online reviews. Along with patient outcomes, wait times, billing/insurance and bedside manner are all fair game.

But when it comes to evaluating medical offices, many doctor rating sites fall short in evaluating the patient experience.

With the exception of HealthGrades and Doctorsdig which asked about the office “Environment” and Doctor.com which had a question about “Appearance/Atmosphere,” I didn’t find any information about the physical space on the surveys used on the  following online sites:

I should also point out that I was able to check out a survey used by Press Ganey, the industry leader in measuring patient satisfaction. They included questions on privacy and cleanliness.

The absence of detailed questions on design, comfort and the environment could indicate that these considerations don’t matter to patients.

I am more inclined to believe these sites are not taking into account the changing needs and priorities of patients and the growth of retail medicine.

By way of comparison, check out wellness.com

According to its CEO John Valenty, the website has collected more 1.5 million satisfaction surveys asking patients to assess their doctor experience.

Among questions about trust, value and competence, respondents are asked to assess room temperature, cleanliness/comfort of the furniture cleanliness/smell of waiting room, spaciousness of the waiting room, noise level, the selection of music played, the choice of magazines, whether the equipment is up to date, and whether the staff takes pride in their office.

Significance for Physicians

Why should this matter for physicians?

A physician’s physical space is not just an aesthetics or design question; it’s part of the patient experience.

From a medical perspective, evidence has shown that physical space plays a role in patient health and well being.

And then there is business case. Patients associate a more modern, comfortable and accommodating healthcare office environment with a higher quality of care.

As John Valenty emailed me:

“The traditional practice either embraces the fact that today’s patient is a reasonably empowered consumer who knows they can go a few miles away if they have to and find what they feel is a higher quality of care if need be. Modern practices are being developed by real innovators and setting the new standard of care–soon nobody will want anything less.”

It’s all part of the “retailization” of medicine. Hospitals are fighting to attract patients with concierge services, and healthcare systems are repositioning themselves to be more retail-oriented, patient-friendly networks of care.

In this environment, atmosphere, amenities, comfort and convenience are influencing how patients choose their medical provider.

CGCAHPS 

I am convinced that the attention paid to the patient experience will only increase.

The Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CGCAHPS) survey is a standardized tool to measure patient perceptions of care delivered by a provider (e.g. physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, etc.) in an office setting.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires CGCAHPS data collection for medical practices with over 100 eligible professionals and will start voluntary participation for groups with least 25 eligible professionals in 2015 according to Press Ganey.

The survey doesn’t address the physical space. Maybe in time that will change, but for the moment, providers should understand that environments influence perceptions and can impact satisfaction scores.

LESSONS FROM MY 80 YEAR OLD MOTHER

For some insight, I look to my 80 year old mom who regularly complains to me about her difficulty in getting in and out of chairs at her doctor’s office.

It’s not enough for her to switch doctors, but the design of a physician’s office, the chairs, the lighting, the flow, the restrooms, even the magazine selection may influence others who value the patient experience in managing their care.

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