doctor ratings

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Ruling: You Can Call Your Doctor ‘A Real Tool’ In Online Review

(Janekpfeifer/Wikimedia Commons)

(Janekpfeifer/Wikimedia Commons)

Please forgive me for posting week-old news, but I somehow missed this important decision: The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a man whose online review of a Duluth neurologist included a nurse’s description of the doctor as “a real tool.”

The Associated Press report on the landmark case explains that “a tool” is “slang for stupid or foolish,” but my own translation into the vernacular, by which I mean Yiddish, would be “schmuck,” and the Online Slang Dictionary notes that “tool can also be found in the thesaurus categories ‘Words meaning penis’ and ‘Words meaning uncool person, jerk, asshole (general insults – list of).’”

So to move on from the lexical to the legal implications, this ruling — which the AP notes is not binding in other states but may influence future decisions — seems to strike a blow in favor of patients’ rights to disparage their doctors in online review sites. The AP reports:

The opinion, written by Justice Alan Page, said the comments posted by Dennis Laurion don’t add up to defamation because they’re opinions that are entitled to free speech protections.

“Referring to someone as `a real tool’ falls into the category of pure opinion because the term `real tool’ cannot be reasonably interpreted as stating a fact and it cannot be proven true or false. … We conclude that it is an opinion amounting to `mere vituperation and abuse’ or `rhetorical hyperbole’ that cannot be the basis for a defamation action,” the justices said.

And this from the losing lawyer: Continue reading

Consumer Reports Rates Mass. Doctor Groups From Patients’ Perspective

For the first time in its history, Consumer Reports, the trusty rater of cars and appliances, is publishing ratings of nearly 500 primary care physician groups in Massachusetts using data from Massachusetts Health Quality Partners.

The first-in-the-nation ratings, which you can find here, include 329 adult practices and 158 pediatric practices around the state and are drawn from MHQP’s statewide patient experience surveys, conducted every two years since 2006. Consumer Reports is producing a special version of the magazine for distribution in Massachusetts with a 24-page section, “How Does Your Doctor Compare?”

You can’t see how your individual doctor is ranked, but you can look up how his or her practice rates on a range of quality measures, all from the patient’s perspective. These include how well physicians communicate with their patients and coordinate medical care; how well they know their patients; hoe well they give preventive care and advice; and whether patients would be willing to recommend their doctor to family and friends.

The patient experience survey, which includes 47,565 adults and 16,530 parents of children (all with commercial health insurance) also includes questions on patients’ feelings about the rest of the office staff: the nurses, receptionists and the folks who deal with billing and insurance. (Practices had to have at least three physicians to be rated.)

As more patients buy high-deductible health insurance plans and pay more of their own money for medical care, these types of quality ratings will take on added importance, says Barbra Rabson, Executive Director of Massachusetts Health Quality Partners “The need for this information is escalating,” she says. Continue reading