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Rate your doctor (why we wrote the story)

May 16, 2008 |  9:00 pm

Rateblog Consumer empowerment has reached new heights -- with average Americans weighing in on professors, plumbers, just about everyone. Most people would say that's a healthy trend, one not without perils for individuals but nevertheless empowering for consumers overall. Now doctors are finding themselves subject to such ratings. And they're squeamish.

It's understandable. Physicians are morally compelled to provide care to even the most combative, unreasonable or irrational patients. And what might they get for their efforts? An anonymous attack for all the world to see.

Reporter Shari Roan had been noticing the growing number of doctor-rating sites (RateMDs.com, Vitals.com, DrScore.com and others) at the same time her eldest daughter was telling her how helpful RateMyProfessors.com is for college kids in signing up for classes. "I started thinking about whether the doctor ratings sites were useful, accurate and fair," she says.

What she found was a public hungry for more complete information about the men and women to whom they entrust their lives. Americans don't apparently believe that medical boards, insurance companies or doctors themselves will tell the truth. And so they've turned to each other.

"What surprised me once I got into reporting the story was how emotional many of the comments are," Roan says. "People are really angry, and my sense is that it reflects the state of healthcare in general."

We understand the pros and cons of this trend -- as, we're sure, do readers. The online world is a risky one, reputation-wise and in terms of accuracy. But patients want -- and need -- as much information as they can get when stepping blindly into the healthcare abyss. They also deserve accurate information.

Like it or not, ratings of everyone are likely here to stay. For them to be truly useful, however, our story suggests that more people -- not fewer people -- need to weigh in. Not just with the bad -- but with the good.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

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