Newswise — Consumers can look to the Internet for user reviews of everything from restaurants to kitchen appliances to wedding photographers. Now they can turn to Rush University Medical Center's website to see what the patients think about their own doctors at Rush.

Rush has begun including the results of patient surveys in the profiles of individual physicians on its website, The profiles appear on the site’s Find a Doctor section.

Rush is among few medical centers in the country, and the only one in the Midwest, to make this information available to potential patients.

“The general trend in health care is toward increased transparency,” says Anthony Perry, MD, vice president of ambulatory (outpatient) care and population health at Rush. “We want to embrace that trend, because we believe that information will empower patients who are making important decisions and simultaneously inspire us to be the best we can be on their behalf.”

Counting the stars

Each year, Rush gathers feedback from approximately 17,000 patients who receive mail or email surveys following an appointment. The survey includes more than 30 questions asking patients for feedback about their care and service, including 10 that focus on their care provider.

Based on the results of those questions, Rush will make available patient feedback about any physician for whom the Medical Center has received 30 or more surveys in a rolling one-year period. The feedback is presented in the form of stars, ranging from one star for a “very poor” evaluation to five stars for “very good.”

The overall number of stars a physician receives appears on the main page of his or her profile. Clicking the “Patient Feedback” tab on that page takes a viewer to a page with the doctors’ cumulative score on each of the 10 questions.

All patient responses to the survey are included in determining the number of stars each physician receives. None have been excluded or removed.

The questions are about factors such as the care provider’s friendliness, explanations of the care, level of concern and understandability. “These aspects of care are what patients notice first and most about their physicians, and we want to be accountable to our patients for how we treat them,” Perry says.

(In fact, Rush ties for first among full-service hospitals in the greater Chicago area on the question of whether its patients would recommend the hospital to someone else. That question is included in a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Information about clinical quality of care measurements also is available from the centers’ Hospital Compare website.)

A specialist in geriatric medicine, Perry sees patients about one day a week as well performing administrative duties and was among the first group of Rush physicians whose profiles include patient feedback. Rush has added this information to about 100 physician profiles since the beginning of 2015 and expects to reach approximately 180 in all. They include the profiles of all the physicians for whom 30 or more recent surveys have been obtained, plus a few specialized practices with smaller survey populations. In addition, Rush soon will begin to add verbatim patient comments about their physicians taken from the surveys.

Higher levels of care

Perry hopes that making the patient feedback available will make it easier for patients to choose doctors that will be a good fit for them. In addition, he believes it will patients the commitment Rush physicians have to providing a high quality patient experience.

Patient survey evaluations improved among physicians at the University of Utah Hospitals in Salt Lake City after 2012, when it became the first U.S. hospital to put patient feedback online. Only three other U.S. hospitals have followed suit to date.

Perry credits Rush’s patient-centered culture for motivating the Medical Center to become the fifth institution to join this small pool. “We’re doing it because we have providers who believe the experience is important and work on making sure the experience patients have at Rush is at a very high level,” he says.

“We accept our patients’ feedback as valuable information that’s collected in a very structured and standardized way,” he adds.

The patient surveys are conducted by Press Ganey Associates, Inc. in South Bend, Indiana, which is the largest independent research firm conducting patient surveys for U.S. hospitals.

“It has many advantages over the propriety sites such as Healthgrades and Vitals, because the feedback comes from actual, confirmed patients, not just anyone who wants to provide a review. There is no verification on these other sites that the person commenting has actually even seen the physician” observes Francis Fullam, senior director of marketing research at Rush.

The addition of patient feedback enhances the wealth of information about physicians at Rush that’s already available in the “Find a Doctor” section. The physician profile pages include information about each physician’s education, training and clinical subspecialties and interests. They also may include research interests and lists of scholarly publications. Many of the profiles also feature video interviews with the doctors as well. Of course, there’s also contact information and driving directions.

“Including our patients’ feedback makes Find a Doctor more helpful than ever in aiding other patients in choosing a doctor,” Fullam says. “Our thought was that if we’re trying to help people make a decision to match what they want in a doctor with a physician’s approach, we ought to use the information we already have available in a format the public already has widely accepted and embraced.”