Tuesday, October 23, 2007

WellPoint, Zagat To Launch Online Physician Rating Tool

Health insurer WellPoint, which provides benefits to about 35 million people, and Zagat Survey on Monday announced that they will launch an online physician survey tool in January 2008 to let their members rate their experiences with doctors, Indianapolis Star reports (Lee, Indianapolis Star, 10/23).

WellPoint members will be able to rate physicians on a zero-to-30 scale based on:

  • Availability;
  • Communication;
  • Office environment; and
  • How much members trust them (Reuters, 10/22).

WellPoint said that each entry on the Web site will contain a physician's contact information, the scale ratings for each category and the percentage of members who recommend the physician (Fuhrmans, "Health Blog," Wall Street Journal, 10/22).

Patients also can include comments or recommendations, although the system will have a filtering process to restrict inappropriate information, Jason Gorevic, WellPoint's chief marketing and product officer, said.

Physicians and consumer advocates say that while the online tool could offer useful consumer information, the ratings will not measure the quality of medical care, the Star reports.

Deanna Willis, an assistant professor of family medicine at Indiana University, said, "The people who are going to be motivated to go and do something like this are going to be really happy or unhappy ... The voice in the middle is more likely to get lost."

Jon Marhenke, president of the Indiana State Medical Association, said that physicians could learn about flaws in their appointment scheduling systems but added that the site will not be an indication of the "quality of medical care provided."

Ron Pollack -- executive director of Families USA, a consumer group -- said, "While I'm in favor of more information, I'm not sure this information might not turn out to be misleading."

Gorevic added that the ratings are not meant to replace information on quality and costs (Indianapolis Star, 10/23).

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