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Why physicians should pay attention to web reviews

While some doctors have criticized Web sites where patients can rate medical practitioners as unethical and defamatory, Milwaukee psychiatrist Shaili Jain, MD, argues that physicians can learn a lot from reading patients' rants and raves.

Jain writes in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Medical training rarely affords such an opportunity. We learn about what makes a good doctor from textbooks and medical journals, receive ethics and professionalism training, and find role-model physicians to emulate, but nearly all of this is education from a doctor's perspective. We seldom get to hear what patients want or value because in the real world disappointed patients rarely tell doctors to their face what they think of them...

...These sites, though virtually useless for meaningful evaluation of an individual physician, seem to hold promise in the aggregate weight and significance of the stories they contain. These stories are nuggets of qualitative data on patients' attitudes regarding the quality of care and their needs and preferences in their relationships with their doctors. The Internet has allowed patients to have their unfiltered voices heard in a collective and powerful way.

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