HealthTap Wants to Get Out the Vote for Top Docs

Photograph by Rob Melnychuk

By Ki Mae Heussner

Election Day is still about a week away, but HealthTap wants its users to start casting their votes today—for their favorite doctors, that is.

On Thursday, the Palo Alto (Calif.) company, which enables patients to connect with an online network of 15,000 doctors, announced a new Top Doctors Competition to bring more transparency to the quality of care physicians provide. As part of the ongoing online contest, patients and doctors will be able to vote for the clinicians they think are the top ones in each field. On each doctor’s HealthTap profile, users will be able to see the number of votes received from patients and other doctors.

In a sense, it’s similar to the 5-star rating system on ZocDoc, which is informed by patient reviews, and the patient satisfaction score on HealthGrades []. But HealthTap’s voting system includes two separate tracks so that both patients and doctors can participate. HealthTap’s thinking is that patients can comment on physicians’ “softer” skills—their bedside manner, personality, and empathy—but other doctors are best equipped to assess their peers’ actual practice and outcomes.

To ensure that doctors don’t try to game the system and hurt the reputations of other doctors, the system allows only up voting. And to discourage friends from just voting for friends, HealthTap adds accountability by randomly showing the names of a few of the doctors who have voted for a profile.

HealthTap already provides a DocScore, which gives patients a way to understand each doctor’s expertise and is based on publicly available information, such as the doctor’s medical school, residency, and number of years in practices, as well as the reviews of other doctors on the site. But while that ranking may reflect a doctor’s knowledge about a particular field, HealthTap’s co-founder and chief executive, Ron Gutman, believes the new ranking will provide more insight into each doctor’s ability as a practitioner.

“When people buy a phone, or something at the grocery store, or clothing, we can easily see what’s high quality, what’s low quality, what’s the price and then make a good decision,” he said. “The funny thing is people aren’t even upset that they don’t [have this transparency] in health care. … We need to demand to know who are the best doctors, and these kinds of things that make the doctors [competitive] among themselves and give patients the power to voice their opinion will make the whole health-care system better.”

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