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When buying a dishwashwer, cell phone, or skateboard, using sites that rate merchants makes a lot of sense.  Most people who use the internet are familiar with the eBay model, in which vendors receive an approval rating, so that buyers will have some idea of who they will be doing business with when they execute the transaction.  This is happening in healthcare as well, and as this article from NPR shows, sites like FindADoc.com and DoctorScorecard.com can make or break a practice that relies on the internet for a portion of their referrals.

Dr. Vail Reese is one of the most highly rated doctors on local San Francisco search engines. As a dermatologist, Reese sees patients with the usual embarrassing skin disorders: athlete’s foot, acne, scary moles. In his beautiful art-deco offices, he gives every wart and blemish personal attention, peering at them through a large magnifying glass.

Reese says that about half his new patients find him through sites like Yelp, a social networking site that has a section where users can share their experiences about doctors.

“They’ll blog and comment on everything in an office,” Reese says. “They’ll talk about what the nurse said or did, the way the receptionist was on the phone. They’ll talk about the billing staff or service.”