CONSUMER HEALTH: New Sites Help Find Doctors Online
Finding a good doctor is getting easier, as new Internet sites are beginning to offer quality and cost information on doctors, hospitals, health plans and some nursing homes, the Orange County Register reports. Sites like www.guidetodoctors.org poll physicians to see whom they regard as tops in the field and provide that information to consumers. Other sites include SearchPointe.com, a commercial service that offers doctor profiles, including any sanctions they have received, and HealthGrades.com, which analyzes and rates everything from hospitals to health plans. Although these Web sites often provide valuable information, experts warn that some charge for their services, and the data may not always be "complete or accurate." Dale Austin, deputy executive vice president of the Federation of State Medical Boards, said, "There's a lot of information out there in a variety of Web sites, and it tends to all look alike. Be a little wary of information that might be self-promotional or self-reported." He added that much of the information is available free from the government. Despite their benefits, medical Web sites have limitations, because pending complaints and malpractice suits are not included and some disciplinary actions are "never made public." Austin said, "It's valuable information, but I don't think it's the be-all and end-all" (Rafinski, 5/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.