Humans have always been fascinated by stars. Since prehistoric times, we have used stars for developing calendars, creating stories, navigation, astrology, and even naming our kids! It is therefore natural that subconsciously it was recognised as a symbol of excellence, and more stars denoted a better product.
Modern world is dominated by the ratings culture. Whether we are shopping, looking at a new product, comparing movies, or services, the star rated reviews provides a ready, level playing field for the consumer to compare various options. Historically it was the critical review of movies that was supposed to give a ready reference guide to the readers regarding the quality of movie. It is noteworthy though that critically acclaimed movies were rarely blockbusters. This is because the the critics appraise the movie according to various quality parameters, while audience rated it subjectively based on entertainment value. The two tastes seldom matched. It does however have a good negative predictive value – by helping to weed out really bad content. Whilst excellent reviews does not always translate in commercial success, really bad reviews mostly coincide with bad content and therefore also rejected by public making the film a flop. It is important to understand this analogy in the context of the current star rating culture.
With the advent of internet, star rating has become ubiquitous, with numerous websites even collating the average of ratings across different websites to provide a composite rating. Against this backdrop, it is inevitable that doctors are also rated individually, and medical institutions as a separate entity. Public websites like justdial, google, rateddoctor, practo, sehat, iwgc, doctify etc allow unbiased, democratic way of putting the user experience in public domain. Increasingly, websites are offering an Amazon type rating experience which ensures minimum bias.
However, these ratings have an inbuilt flaw – whilst the user (patient) rates the doctor based on overall experience, there are actually a number of factors that impact the experience, of which doctor is usually only a small part. Like Amazon specifies separate feedback for the actual product, seller, delivery experience etc, the challenge in medical ratings is to further refine the process to make the ratings reflective of respective parts of the experience – hospital, facilities, physician interaction, diagnostic, response to treatment etc. In the meantime, there is no denying that ratings are here to stay and are likely to be increasingly important in the way patients choose their doctors. The ratings are becoming more qualitative, and it is also an opportunity for people with consistently bad ratings to use this as feedback to improve their practice. Equally, it is important to ensure that these do not become a fertile ground for disgruntled elements to vent their frustration and unfairly tarnish reputations.