HealthTap, the online and mobile service that lets users ask health questions to physicians covering more than 100 medical specialties, is adding a two-faceted doctor rating system to help consumers make more informed choices.
HealthTap has introduced a "competition" to bring more transparency to the process of selecting a physician. The company is taking votes from users about each physician they have experienced, on non-medical factors including bedside manner, empathy and personality, according to the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company. At the same time, physicians can rate their peers in terms of medical knowledge.
As votes come in, the more than 16,000 physcians HealthTap says are now in its network will rise and fall in the rankings, based on medical speciality, procedure or specific health issue. Also factoring into the tally is the quality of information each doctor shares on HealthTap.
"If you want to choose a movie or a pizza shop, there's a world of sites and reviews to help. But there's nowhere trustworthy to go with a vital concern like your health," HealthTap CEO Ron Gutman says in a company statement. "This is a transparent and meritocratic alternative to all the doctor reviews out there that are based on non-qualitative factors," he adds.
There are plenty of physician and hospital rating sites online, including Vitals.com (which Inc. magazine named one of America's 50 fastest-growing private companies this year), the long-established Healthgrades, RateMDs.com and, on a smaller scale, the esteemed, fiercely independent Consumer Reports. Consumer opinion forums like Yelp do rate doctors, though that site seems to be purely subjective.
What still eludes the healthcare industry is an objective rating system based on patient outcomes and other safety factors, however.
HealthTap has been a darling of the investment community, racking up sizeable cash infusions of $11.5 million from a group including ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt and $2.5 million from angel investors led by Mohr Davidow Ventures. It also has seen its physician community soar from 6,000 last December to more than 16,000 today.
However, it has been controversial among some in the patient-safety community, who have questioned whether it is risky to get specific medical advice from physicians who patients do not have a pre-existing relationship with.