Whitecoat - rating your doctor online

By Corin Kelly
Monday, 03 October, 2016



In the style of TripAdvisor and Uber, patients will soon be able to rate their doctor through the Whitecoat website, and the AMA is concerned about the increasing influence of private health insurers.
Whitecoat was set up three years ago by NIB to provide non-clinical reviews of healthcare providers such as dentists and physiotherapists.
BUPA and HBF will join with NIB to expand the Whitecoat platform to cover doctors and specialists, with reviews and a guide to gap fees. Whitecoat has information on more than 35,000 dentists and physiotherapists and hosts more than 250,000 customer reviews. The funds are promoting the site as a way for health fund members to find the cheapest and best quality doctors and describes itself as TripAdvisor for healthcare.
Every member of the public will be able to see some of the information on the website but access to information on doctors’ out of pocket charges and performance will be restricted to members of participating health funds.
Health funds say it is a major advance for patients and will promote competition among high charging medical specialists who often leave patients with tens of thousands of dollars on out of pocket expenses.
But the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is worried about the increasing dominance of the private insurance industry in health.
"Whitecoat represents a bid for insurers to control yet another aspect of a system they already largely control," AMA president Michael Gannon said.
"I would trust the family GP to give me information about the care I need more than a private health insurer."
Dr Norman Swan from the ABC's Health Report issued a word of caution about interpreting this type of information.
"There is a risk that good surgeons will be tarred by bad data," he said.
"Really good surgeons do really difficult cases which might not look good on paper, so have you adjusted for the complexity of cases that a good surgeon will do?"
While reviews of doctors and specialists will at first be non-clinical, there are plans for the website to go further, providing information about clinical outcomes. Only doctors who agree to take part will be listed.
References
Tracy Bowden. Australian Medical Association sounds warning over online patient reviews. ABC News. 1st Oct 2016.

Sue Dunlevy. First TripAdvisor, then Uber now there’s an online website to help you find the cheapest, best doctor. 28 July 2016.

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