Cancer: How Do You Choose the Right Doctor for You

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

At my recent annual appointment with my oncologist, we got into a discussion about patients posting reviews of their doctors on the Internet and how they affect the professional on so many levels. This oncologist has been on my medical team for 11 years, after I had to get a second opinion following my first cancer diagnosis. His skills, concern for his patients and careful care and support of treatment paths decided after the discussion of all options have been considered has been unbelievably beneficial to me and my care over all of these years. So I was shocked when he shared info about a couple of negative reviews on his Internet page and on Yelp.

If we all just keep in mind that everything that we read is not always true, we might make better choices about how we can use the Internet to enhance our decision making rather than making it the source for that purpose when it comes to our health – and ultimately, perhaps our lives.Barbara Jacoby

When he explained the circumstances behind these two posts, I was saddened and horrified that people would do such a thing when the doctor informed them that a treatment would not only not help the patient but would actually do her harm or when the doctor was advised by his attorney to stop communications with a caregiver when it was determined that the caregiver had filed a lawsuit against another unrelated medical professional and would be using anything discussed in a court of law. Of course my action when I got home was to post a positive review on both sites which is something that I have never done before. And I would never, ever post a negative review about anyone for any reason, including that first oncologist that I had to replace.

This discussion reminded me about an article that I had seen that provided some very startling information about how patients are making their choices for healthcare providers based upon some very interesting factors. For me, the one that stood out the most was the selecting of a doctor based upon ratings shown on the provider’s website.

To me, this is no different than my first oncologist who determined what my treatment would be based upon the type of breast cancer that I had, the size of the tumor and my age. These were the guidelines that he printed out for me from WebMD that he decided would direct my treatment. This was very uncomfortable to me as my first thoughts were why do I need an oncologist to decide my treatment path if all that was needed was to follow what I found on the Internet rather than getting advice from a medical professional who has spent years learning about breast cancer and all of the options available for their patients based upon their actual cancer which is different in every single individual.

The idea of selecting a doctor based upon current information shown on the site and favorable reviews is probably one of the saddest ones for me as a patient advocate. If for no other reason, it seems to me that people need to realize that the patient reviews posted on a doctor’s website may not really give you a true picture of that provider. Often times, people will post a favorable review because they have been asked to do so or are somehow related to the practice or by someone at that practice who may not truly believe what they have written but will receive some side benefit for having done that post. By the same token, a person may post a negative rating because they don’t like a doctor’s way of presenting information to them or are bothered by having had a bad experience with a staff member or just have a personal grudge against the provider.

This is not to say that reviews are to be totally disregarded. They, in fact, can be quite useful when considered in making a final decision but not as the sole way in which to select a healthcare provider. If you are looking to find a new doctor, referrals should be requested from family and/or friends or co-workers or any other medical professionals that you might know. First person knowledge that others have based upon their own experiences and interactions should be a first step in your selection. Then the Internet becomes a great tool to determine a whole host of other information that should provide the doctor’s background, years of service, specialty and even whether they are located at an office that is easily accessible for you. And, if you want to check reviews at this point, these should be reviewed with a very careful eye.

Most importantly, making the choice of a medical provider based upon their online information and presence and reviews is not in any person’s best interest. Your health is just way too important to screen for your medical team members through such a process. Your health and ultimately, healthcare is just too important to give it over to online information. Even in researching treatment information, it is of no real value to a person until it is discussed and shared with a trusted medical provider who knows your medical history and all of the factors related to you and all aspects of your health in order to decide whether it will be an appropriate consideration for you personally. So why would you want to give your healthcare over to someone based upon Internet information any quicker than you would treat yourself medically based upon Internet information. If we all just keep in mind that everything that we read is not always true, we might make better choices about how we can use the Internet to enhance our decision making rather than making it the source for that purpose when it comes to our health – and ultimately, perhaps our lives.