The ability to communicate using the Internet has given power to the powerless and a meaningful voice to anyone who seeks an audience.  Consumer forums such as Epinions.com have given rise to a whole new entity in the world of business…the disgruntled customer.

The ability to tell your story to the world in mere seconds provides great power and leverage to the consumer, which for most purposes is a good thing.  The consumer after all, is casting a vote of confidence when paying hard earned money for products or services, and they have a right to speak their mind if they have not received the proper value paid for – right?

Enter the business of medicine.  Should the same apply?  If a doctor is rude at the bedside should a patient be able to go online and tell their story to the masses, perhaps ruining a physician’s reputation in a few simple keystrokes?  Should a patient have to qualify their remarks by meeting some pre-established criteria that makes it difficult to do harm to physicians online?  Should consumers be rating physicians online at all?

This article in the Los Angeles Times speaks to the pros and cons of this very topic, referencing some of the most popular venues for rating physicians online.

“There is a lot of power in the Internet and, in a way, certain doctors have used it to become famous,” says Sykes, who is vice president of education for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and director of facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery at UC Davis. “But it works in both directions. The Internet has a long voice. Something negative gets perpetuated because the website stays up. Good reputations can be tarnished by a sinister person.”

Doctors shouldn’t be rated like any other product or service provider, such as a car or car mechanic, says Dr. Kevin Weiss. Medicine involves highly individual and personalized interactions, he says, and each medical case and doctor-patient relationship is unique.

“With TVs and cars, people can subjectively talk about their experience because you have a consistent product,” he says. “But with healthcare there is so much blended into the experience, it’s hard to do an evaluation. You want a doctor who is both technically competent but also one who can communicate and understand the human dimensions beyond the technical aspect of good care.”