Patients will be able to write reviews of their public hospital stays when Trip Advisor-style ratings are adopted in New Zealand next year.
Health Minister Tony Ryall has confirmed a patient ranking system for public hospitals, similar to those already in use in Britain, will be rolled out nationwide.
It will allow patients to score hospitals on the quality of their emergency departments and inpatient wards and comment on what they liked or disliked, including staff, beds and food.
In Britain, the National Health Service introduced the Friends and Family test in April this year. Patients are surveyed and can write online reviews, giving hospitals and clinics star ratings on cleanliness, staff co-operation, dignity and respect, patient involvement and accommodation.
In New Zealand, the Health Quality & Safety Commission is working on a similar but more comprehensive version of the tests for our hospitals.
"We will expect that we will be introducing this into hospitals in the middle of next year," Ryall said.
"We know that this actually improves performance. It will provide tremendous feedback to DHBs and their wards and their clinicians on their performance, because it will actually tell them what their patients think and feel about the level of service."
Individual rankings for doctors and nurses would not be included but, based on international trends, that may happen later, Ryall said.
"We're not in a position to do that yet but I think over the next three to four years there's an inevitability about more disclosure of information on both a hospital and individual level."
However, an increasing number of New Zealand doctors are already being rated through the US-based website RateMDs.com, with more than 200 rankings on the site. It allows patients to score doctors out of five, with comments alongside.
New Zealand Medical Association deputy chair Stephen Child said the medical profession welcomed more scrutiny but were concerned about how a ranking system would work.
There was a danger of patients writing bad reviews simply based on whether they liked their doctor or if they didn't receive the medication they wanted, he said.
"One of the challenges is the detail; how would it be decided whether someone is good or bad?
"It could just come down to a popularity contest."
Personable doctors weren't always the best, with serial murderer Dr Harold Shipman in the UK an extreme example, he said.
Nicknamed "Dr Death", Shipman is thought to have killed more than 200 of his patients.
"He was loved by his patients; the fact that he was killing them was a minor detail."
Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said he would be "uneasy" with a review system until he saw the details.
"Hospitals are much more complex than hotels or motels . . . the last thing you want to do is demotivate the people that are holding the system together."
Waitemata DHB has already introduced its own version of the Friends and Family test, asking patients five questions about their experiences at its hospitals as they leave.
They have had about 600 responses in the past two months, and thet are being used to shape their services.
Associate nursing director Jenny Parr said the information was not yet available publicly, as the system was still developing.
Parliamentary ombudsman Professor Ron Paterson, author of The Good Doctor, said doctors would be "understandably nervous", but that more patient information was necessary.
HOW NZ RATES DOCTORS
GP, Auckland, male – ★★★★★: "[Doctor] is the most wonderful doctor. He literally saved my life."
Surgeon, Christchurch, male – ★★★★★: "I had a breast augmentation and found [doctor] to be fantastic. He was very professional and gave me the best possible advice and options. The final outcome was outstanding."
GP, Auckland, male – ★★★: "Very expensive doctor. Charges for everything! $30 for a referral letter. Waiting for over an hour for appointment. Very cautious, seems to refer to specialist a lot!! Always a referral fee charged. Not good."
Dermatologist, Wellington, male – ★★★: "This doctor was the worst doctor I met in my life. He treats his patient like a piece of meat, ignoring you and any of your requests or questions. He is very rude to nurses and medical students in front of the patient."
Doctor, Wellington, male – ★ : "Worst GP consultation I have ever been to. The consultation lasted less then 1 minute. He diagnosed my son as soon as he saw him with no further questioning on anything else."
Source: Ratemds.com (rankings are overall from all reviews)
- © Fairfax NZ News
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