Restaurateurs and merchants alike have long understood that the best way to build a thriving business is word of mouth.
It’s a lesson physicians are about to learn as well. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina plans to use a rating guide to help its members choose a doctor.
Zagat — the same folks who do the restaurant guide — will produce an online health care survey that will equip consumers with useful information.
Doctors will be graded on the level of trust they instill in their patients, the effectiveness of their communication skills, their availability and office atmosphere. Zagat will not assign a rating on the quality of care. That can be too subjective a matter. Some people want to be coddled. Others want a doctor who’s a straight-shooter.
In this age of blogging and online spewing, opinions about doctors and quality of care already abound. What Zagat offers is an objective model of evaluation.
North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states. Zagat will offer newcomers relocating to our communities an efficient way to wind through the medical maze. The information should be useful whether you are looking for a pediatrician who can handle a child with special needs or a cardiologist who doesn’t golf on Fridays.
Americans have been reluctant to consider health care a product — in part because doctors have resisted being lumped together with hairdressers, chefs or other service-oriented professionals.
They make a good argument. If a surgeon botches things up, it’s usually far more serious than if the chef does. A bad meal is rarely life-threatening.
But with the rising cost of health care comes a heightened awareness of the quality of services provided. Doctors and their staff are unaccustomed to being held accountable for things such as the wait time a patient spends flipping through old magazines in the waiting room.
Restaurant service has been held to a higher standard. People who won’t wait 30 minutes for a meal at their favorite eatery don’t think twice about waiting an hour at their doctor’s office.
Nobody wants a doctor to rush carelessly through an appointment in order to up his or her standing, but having the Zagat Health Survey online will add an accountability that the system lacks.
As doctors are so often fond of saying, the better informed you are, the better decisions you can make about your own health care.