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Worldcrunch

The Pluses And Perils Of Patients Grading Doctors On The Internet

DIE WELT (Germany)

Worldcrunch

More and more Germans have taken to grading doctors online on everything from quality and effectiveness of treatment received to friendliness, writes Die Welt. Medical evaluation sites have been proliferating in Germany over the last five years, and there are now more than 20. All of them contain evaluations by -- and sometimes the opinions of -- patients.

Sometimes the sites ask patients to fill out a questionnaire. Questions posed by the sites include such issues as waiting times to get an appointment as well as in the waiting room, performance of the team, relationship to the doctor, in addition to the quality of medical services.

Doctors can only get criticism removed from the site if they can prove that the patients’ claims are wrong. A Nuremberg court recently ruled that those running the portals have a duty to check the veracity of claims and ask for substantiating documentary evidence in the case of doubt. Removing opinion can be a dicey matter, however, as the right to an opinion is protected by law.

Some sites prefer to avoid problems and don’t give users the option to express opinions, limiting options to a questionnaire. Automatic filters check for offensive language, and sites need to make sure that none of the claims by users are libelous.

Some of the downsides of the sites include inadequate separation of patient opinion and, for example, paid spaces where doctors can advertise – so that those consulting the site might mistake an ad for patient input. Another issue is a site run by a group of 10 insurance companies that only publish negative feedback about doctors if they receive it from 10 patients or more.

Some patients are discouraged from sending input because of the amount of personal information – including their health insurance number – that is required to register.

Medical lawyer Katri Lyck believes that patients will with time “start to trust the recommendations and evaluations they find on the Internet the way they trust family and friends’ opinions now.”

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