Would You Use Yelp to Find a Doctor?

Written by Michelle Klug on July 18, 2017
find a doctor

Welcome to the future: You can FaceTime your physician, get in a Skype therapy session, and even get operated on by a robot. So why not embrace technology and use the internet’s top review site to ensure that your future doctor is up to snuff?

At first glance, you may feel like looking for a doc in the same place you look for a hot dining spot seems a bit weird. And yes, looking at your future doctor’s Yelp review can have its pros and cons. You can’t always confirm the validity of the reviews and don’t know the circumstances that prompted the “angry” ones.

But, at the same time, you’re essentially getting the inside scoop from dozens — or even hundreds — of patients who’ve already been to this doctor. In that sense, it’s definitely worth a look.

Here are some ground rules:

1. Take a top-down approach

Start off with a list of potential doctors, either from your insurance company’s website or another physician’s recommendations. This will ensure that every doctor you Yelp is actually in your network. It’ll also help narrow things down.

2. Search specific keywords

Keyword search specific conditions, illnesses, or services you’re looking for. Read how other people’s experiences were when they were treated for the same thing. For example, if you’re seeking treatment for sinus infections and the doctor has multiple five-star reviews from people with sinus issues, they may be a good match for you.

3. Get the deets

A lot of doctors’ offices are actively updating info on their Yelp page, so look for something from the doctor. They may list info about their specialty, languages they speak, info on the office, whether they’re taking new patients, etc. It will save you a call.

4. Read the bad reviews

But take them with a grain of salt. Keep in mind: Every doctor has bad reviews. Likely, you’ll see people who didn’t feel like they were “cured,” had a billing issue, or thought the doctor was rude. If the doctor has many bad reviews, it could be a red flag. If there are consistent complaints, you may need to decide if what others have written is a deal breaker for you.

5. Rude!

Search for terms like “bedside manner,” “rude,” and “nice.” Whether you care about bedside manner or not, it’s good to know what to expect. If reviews indicate that the doc can be a bit short, maybe skip the small talk and get down to brass tacks. If you want a doctor who’s more nurturing and will take the time to explain things in detail, that’s totally valid. That info is pretty easy to find on Yelp, too.

6. Wait, please

My old primary care doctor had an average wait time of over an hour. I had no idea that was abnormal until I changed doctors. An occasional long wait time is normal (doctors have emergencies), but a long wait every time isn’t normal and is often the result of poor organization, overbooking, or both. Definitely get a sense of how long you’ll be waiting before you commit to a new doctor.

7. No Nurse Ratchets

Chances are you’ll have a fair amount of interaction with nurses, nurse practitioners, etc. They’ll all be treating you, so you should know what everyone that’s treating you is like — not just the boss doc.

8. Check out the digs

If you’ve ever been to a doctor’s office that’s dirty or unkempt, you know that you’ll never make that mistake again. A lot of times, either doctors or patients will upload photos of the office. Browse through those. If old equipment is collecting dust in the corner, the floors look suspect, or things just don’t look good to you, abort mission.

9. Call me later

Post-appointment communication is sometimes just as important as in-office talk. You’ll most likely need questions answered, test results, medications called in, or you may need emergency advice. Doctors can range from giving you their direct line to completely stonewalling you. Check to see if any Yelp reviewer has mentioned their communication skills.

10. Pill popping

When it comes to prescription medication, people’s opinions vary. Personally, I prefer it to be the last course of treatment after over-the-counter meds and lifestyle changes. If a doctor isn’t willing to invest the time to cater to that, then it’s not a great match. Whatever your preference is, it’s good to know if your future doc is an over-prescriber, under-prescriber, or somewhere in the middle.

Bottom line

While it’s not a perfect system, Yelp (and services like it) can be a massively effective tool not just for holding doctors accountable, but for giving you an added inside scoop into whether a doctor you’re considering is actually right for you.

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