Oral Health Group

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

May 2, 2017
by Lita Dipucchio

Have we gone too far with rating our health care providers?


I am an otherwise lovely middle-aged woman, who is going through menopause. What that means is that on good days I wake up merely hating most people. Bad days are at least one log scale worse. Let’s just say I have been heard uttering death threats to those that I supposedly love.


I tell you this to add some flavor and context to my own microcosm of existence before describing ‘the big event’ – a dentist appointment. I see it on my calendar. I’m disgusted simply by the orange bar on my iPhone that tells me I need to be in the dentist’s chair at 4 p.m. I am greeted when I arrive by two people sitting at the reception desk. For a reason I can’t pinpoint, I am already annoyed by how cheerful they are.

When I am finally ushered into the chair, there is seemingly a lot of busy work – bibs, glasses, etc. Perhaps they are essential and for my own well-being, but they simply add to my annoyance. The dentist arrives, and treatment commences. I try to close my eyes and pretend I’m somewhere else. But perhaps silence is too uncomfortable for those performing services, so they speak; sometimes ask questions. The problem is that my brain is answering but it’s impossible to actually respond, given that I have at least two hands, a number of metal objects and cotton balls the size of Playtex tampons stuffed in my mouth. I am yet again annoyed. You see a theme unfolding? Dissatisfied before I even arrived, until the very bitter end!

I am so filled with negative emotion about this event that the minute I arrive home, I race to my computer and decide to share my horrible experience with the world at large. I painstakingly diss virtually every element of the experience, threatening a number of times throughout my diatribe that I am going to find a new dentist, and that others should avoid this office altogether. I’m in my full, hormonally imbalanced glory while frantically typing at my computer, and only when I press ‘send’ do I experience any sort of small, albeit temporary relief.

I have spewed my revenge over RATEMDs. Now others who have any common sense and do their homework will know better than to go to Dr. X. And that’s where the problem starts. Is my rating fair? Does my commentary reflect what truly happened? Am I perhaps exaggerating for effect? Am I just plain mad at the world and happened to have a dentist appointment in the midst of my misery? Or was it really a bad experience, worthy of letting others know?

The issue is that there is no rebuttal mechanism. So, while common criminals have the luxury of being presumed innocent before being proven guilty, our health care providers are sentenced with an inappropriate rating, not even knowing who may have levied the charges against them in the first place.

One might argue that a single negative rating is rather meaningless. If the health care provider is truly stellar at what he or she does, then the weight of the evidence will pull in the individual’s favour and the one or two negative statements should bear no impact on the individual, right? Wrong. Even if one single patient decides to look elsewhere because of a ‘faux review’, then both patient and health care provider suffer.

The age of the internet has brought a level of disrespect to the way we deal with people and people issues. Virtually everyone knows someone who is far more aggressive on email than they are in person. Add to that, a system designed to provide anonymity such that anyone can say anything about anyone without consequence.

That all said, I don’t mean to purport that there are not legitimate concerns or complaints, but how is one to decipher which ones are worthy of reading and which ones are not if the writer is unknown, and also if the supposed perpetrator of ‘bad service’ doesn’t have an opportunity to respond?

Here is a suggestion: an individual with a legitimate complaint should have the opportunity to voice such. How about a message sent to the health care provider directly from the individual? If the health care provider is worth anything at all, he or she would want to know and perhaps rectify the situation. If they don’t know about it, they can’t do anything about it. If someone is unwilling to voice a concern directly, chances are they are not as confident about their position as they appear to be in an anonymous forum.

Perhaps the system UBER has developed should be adopted by the health care world. While I get to rate each driver as I experience a ride, that same driver is rating me as a passenger. The fact that there is mutual evaluation perhaps leads to better mutual respect.

So patients, beware. One day when your health care providers begin rating you – those of you who perpetually complain, who distort reality because of your own misery, or are just plain difficult may find securing an appointment increasingly challenging.

Be kind to your provider – he or she is only trying to do their best.

And to circle back to my own experience, the truth is, that had my ‘sane’ self showed up for that appointment, the cheerful greeting would have been welcomed. The efficiently run office would have been appreciated. The kind and soothing words during the treatment would have served their purpose – to calm me down. All in all they did a great job – from start to finish.

I think I will go to RATEMDs right now and voice my praise – something we seem to do less frequently than we should. OH

About the Author
Lita Dipucchio is the President and Principal Strategist of LSD The Agency. Lita spent more than a decade as Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Amgen Canada. For more than a decade now, Lita has brought her experience to bear as the President and Principal Strategist of LSD, partnering with some of the most successful healthcare companies with a focus on start-ups. Her mantra is smart, strategic solutions, on time, every time, with excellence. www.lsdtheagency.com

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