If Health 2.0 is about anything, it's about making health care more "commercial." So what about some kind of Consumer Reports-type guide for choosing health plans and doctors? Well, get this: the folks behind the Zagat Survey, that famous slim burgundy restaurant ratings booklet, are making a move into health care with a new online system for rating doctors in one of the nation's largest health insurers, WellPoint.
USA Today reports that instead of Zagat's four dining categories — food, dÃ©cor, service and cost — members will rate doctors on Trust, Communication, Availability and Office Environment. They'll give doctors a numerical score up to 30 points, and can post comments freely. The program will be available to more than a million Wellpoint members by the end of March, and eventually to all 35 million of its members nationwide.
This is a pretty bold move for Wellpoint, when you consider how much people like to bitch online. I wonder how they will police comments from disgruntled members, which can easily besmirch physicians' reputations?
But then again, as my buddy Matthew over at The Health Care Blog (co-founder of the recent Health 2.0 Conference) reports, there's likely to be quite a bit of cynicism about using the system at all. "After all, why should anyone use a health plan site to rate doctors rather than an independent one, and for that matter is Wellpoint going to let its customers rate it (the health plan itself?)"
Also, there's already been quite some skepticism over the fact that patients aren't being asked to rate costs or quality or even medical expertise here — only some parameters of how comfortable they feel with a particular doctor — so Wellpoint and Zagat may be missing the essential point.
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It seems to be clear, Matthew notes, that some sort of consumer ratings system for health care offerings is coming fast. "And plans might as well get into the game somehow, although given the lack of trust they have in the market, my guess is that an independent ratings company is more likely to succeed. And there are lots of those around. Perhaps the question is whether it'll be a guide known best for restaurants like Yelp, a general health care site which allows ratings like Revolution or Vimo, or whether a specialist one that just rates doctors like RateMDs, CareSeek, or Health World Web."
No matter who leads the pack, what we'll end up with will be something like a health care version of Amazon customer product ratings: Did these boots fit well? Would you recommend them to other people? Not completely devoid of value, but certainly not revolutionizing the way you interact with your health care plan.
A much more impactful type of scoring is hopefully on its way in the form of a personal FICO Score for your health care. The idea is to take the concept of a financial FICO score, and apply it to your overall health risks and medical standing. The better your health, the higher your score, and it would be your doctor's/health plan's job to help you raise that score. If they don't, that would be good grounds to find another doctor or health plan. Under this model, doctors and insurers would be directly accountable for the care they give, and patients would do a lot of shopping around. Obviously, for a system like this to really work, your Health FICO Score would have to be evaluated independently of your health plan. Now we're talking something really new and different!
I like the way surfer/MD/healthcare pundit Scott Shreeve puts it: "While many people talk about the concept of a healthcare tipping point, I believe we can go faster by looking at the 'crossover' between industries to learn and apply what is already known in other industries to the health care problem."
Additional thoughts on scoring your health plan or your health itself, Guys? Or do you already consider your A1c to be your default Health FICO Score with diabetes?