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Question DetailsAsked on 5/24/2011

Angie's List covering healthcare providers

I was taken aback when I saw a message from Angie's List announcing the addition of medical professions to the database of consumer service provider reviews, even going as far as to offer member incentives for writing reviews. I've been a big fan of Angie's List ever since I bought our condo a little while back and needed numerous recommendations for HVAC repair, movers, hardwood flooring, carpet, locksmiths, and even travel agents. These recommendations proved to be invaluable, as I have yet to be dissatisfied with any of the work I've had done as a result. Angie's List is a true asset in these areas. Crossing into healthcare, however, Angie's List enters a very gray area as far as the actual review process and the whole idea altogether. As of now, if a consumer has a dispute with a general contractor over a hardwood flooring project, the consumer can write a negative review. The contractor can then write a response to the review and can ultimately resolve the issue, though the negative mark may still remain on the report card to one extent or another. Healthcare providers, on the other hand, are governed by federal law, specifically the HIPAA privacy laws, which ultimately leaves us defenseless against negative publicity of any kind. If a patient complains on Angie's List that he or she didn't like the implant I placed, by law I cannot comment on the situation because I am bound by HIPAA. In fact, I cannot even acknowledge nor deny publicly that a person is even an actual patient of mine! I'm sure the stickiness of the situation is obvious. While great for professions that are not bound by privacy laws, I feel Angie's List has no business including healthcare providers in their database. Stick with everything else. There's plenty of other areas to keep us all busy. I'm interested to see where this goes. My $.02.

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8 Answers

1
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I feel for you Zahnarzt- but that's about as far as it goes.

Good service means good service from a plumber to a doctor. I am personally THRILLED to see that the Average Joe now has a good place (one that we already come to on a regular basis) to see how other people have been treated at a potential doctors office.

I love my doctors. And being a female who is allergic to everything under the sun and with 2 kids under 6 years I've got a lot of doctors to talk about!

But I have had some bad experiences at places that I was forced to go to due to substandard-insurance policies. If I'd have had somewhere to go check out the dentists on the list, I would never have randomly picked one and gone where I did and had my mouth savaged and ended up with a staff infection and then accused of being a pain-killer junkie just looking for meds by the pompous ass whose name was on the door. By the way, the filling he put in is crumbling to pieces.

Some doctor's offices treat you like you are an inconvenience (as opposed to their meal ticket that we are). I tend to avoid such places if I can. And guess what? Now I can! I'm a personable being and I like feeling like I belong and feeling appreciated. I can take my business anywhere and so I expect folks to treat me with respect and kindness. That's the kind of info I look for on Angie's List.

I have a lot of doctor's offices that I go to that are very welcoming and very good to work with. I will praise those practices and I will warn folks against those that have been the complete opposite.

I don't think that the fact that you (and the other doctors out there) are bound by HIPPA should keep the rest of us from sharing the information.

I think that you/they should treat this as more incentive for a doctors office to do their best to make the experience a good one for their patients. Customer satisfaction being something that too many practices don't worry about these days since they don't really have anyone to answer to. Have you seen some of the "rules" posted at doctors offices these days? "Prescription refills require 48 hours notice." Well, if I ran out of my blood pressure medicine without my realizing it how well will 2 days without it go? "48 hours Notice Required for cancelation otherwise a $50 charge will be incurred." Ok, well 2 days ago my 2 year-old wasn't puking all over and now you want to charge me $50 for messing up your day? What about the fact that I sat in your waiting room for 2 hours and then you look at me for 5 minutes and I'm hit with a $200 bill since you have decided you don't want to work with my insurance provider? That's either $11,000 per hour rates or I just got charged $100 per hour to sit in the chair in your waiting room. And how about the less-than-stellar office staff? How is a doctor supposed to know that they have a complete and total B working their front desk? I actually had a woman at a walk-in clinic tell me that I needed to "sit my ass down and wait the 2 hours for the doctor" when I asked her a simple policy question. It was something that she should have been able to answer in her sleep. Needless to say I walked out the door and did not give them my business. I feel that everyone has the right to know these things and they can then make a determination on where to go with some knowledge based on others experiences.

Well, doctors you now have to answer to the millions of Angie's List subscribers and I'm going to do my part. Mark one down for the Average Joe!


Answered 7 years ago by Tacky

-1
Votes

I certainly understand the positives to allowing reviews of healthcare providers, don't get me wrong, however you seemed to have missed my point. While good service certainly benefits from positive reviews, and bad service can learn something from negative reviews, this forum remains entirely one-sided when covering healthcare. The checks and balances provided by Angie's List simply cannot function because of privacy laws and HIPAA. Period. No comment. Not to Angie's List. Not to List readers. Not to anyone!

Having a lot of experience in this field, I can insure you our practice is where it is today because of the positive word-of-mouth advertising and referrals we receive every day. Our patients are our livelihood. You have that absolutely right. That's on top of the fact that we do not deal with HMO or even PPO plans. No matter how hard we try or even how wonderful our service is for a given patient, though, our business involves working with third parties over which we have NO CONTROL. I can fire the B who gave you a hard time in a second and make sure she doesn't work in a 15 mile radius ever again. But now consider you horrible insurance experience. I've seen firsthand a few patients leave our office glowing from the difference we provided over the PPO farm with which their employers contracted only to call back a week later completely irate when their insurance reneged on a procedure predetermination. We're the office! Why didn't we know this would happen? A contractor can comment and shed light on a negative issue so that List readers can put the story together and make a good decision. We cannot. Then the irate person gets a few friends involved and has them write negative reviews because hey, there's no way the reviews can be challenged. Sure, they can check "yes" to the "was the work completed" box so the review has more weight. No one will know. And then that evil doctor will pay! Free speech is not a two-way street here.

And I do not doubt for a second that a hundred patients would write glowing reviews of our practice on the List. But you know, there will come a time when that one person with the insurance issue comes on and spends a few hours crafting the ultimate negative review, enlisting the help of friends, and instigating a smear campaign that we can do nothing to stop. This is the Internet, and that's how people can get. That great sense of anonymity allows for this online whereas a wolf-crier in a town full of fans would be looked at with puzzlement, the situation resolved.

But why would a new person even visit the town when he or she could check it out online first? I've probably made a good dozen contractor contacts through the use of Angie's List, and I did not and probably will not call on one with some positive and some very negative, unresolved reviews under their company name. Certainly not when dealing with healthcare! I'm sure a lot of people agree with me here.

On an entirely different note, think about large PPO practices, their national parent insurance companies, and their role in this debate. We're talking multi-million dollar businesses here. Do you think they will sit idly by and allow damaging reviews to affect part of their referral source? Who provides this forum where free speech is a one-way deal? I like Angie's List a LOT, and I don't want to see it go.

Reviewing healthcare providers is a great idea--it would be a valuable tool for everyone--but with HIPAA and the way things are in healthcare legal world, this forum is broken.

Answered 7 years ago by Zahnarzt

0
Votes

I’ve read several reviews of doctors on the List now that they are starting to become available, and they seem to confirm what I thought would happen; most of them even sounding like the complaint described in the first reply to this thread.The situation described in the earlier post sounds like one whose cause might be more insurance-related than provider-related. Was it the doctor's decision to require 48-hour notice for prescription refills, or was it the insurance company's way of lowering the cost of the need to use a policy? I assure you, insurance companies do not have their policy holder's best interest in mind. We'll never know, of course, because the doctor cannot comment on the situation.

Why doesn't Angie's List review health insurance companies?

As this goes along, I truly hope I’m wrong and this won’t get out of control with hate-reviews leading to a nasty legal problems for Angie’s List. On the same hand, Angie’s List is a paid service, so someone is making money off of these posts. All the more reason some lawyer well-funded by a PPO firm could have a hay day.

Come to think of it, why doesn't Angie's List review lawyers. Hmmm...

Answered 7 years ago by Zahnarzt

0
Votes

I think this is a silly and dangerous attempt to bring in advertising money from service providers with deeper pockets, to turn a profit, instead of a loss, with the magazine. Angie's List extorts big bucks, certainly five or ten times the cost of member dues, from service providers, to place advertising inimical to the mission of Angie's List. Yes, that word works despite four syllables:

inimical: adverse in tendency or effect; unfavorable; harmful (dictionary.com)

Members look to Angie's List for untainted reviews. As a service provider I am happy to have others describe me. I'd like more ability to define myself through broader choices of categories, perhaps in a different concept, perhaps a word search only. But, I should not describe myself. People resort to Angie's List to escape biased information. The fact that a service provider must have ratings B and above, to advertise, is irrelevant.

I view the publishing and advertising game, with appeal to my vanity, as extortion. I thought I would like to appear generous by offering the "coupons." I could only do that if I sent in hundreds of dollars to help support the publishing. Now I know that I want to treat all customers equally. There is as much possibility of tainting, in the offering of discounts, as in the banned gifting of memberships to entice a (favorable) review. I want nothing to do with discounts and coupons. I only want all customers to be members, affordably, for their own reasons.

I think the publishing is a distorting enterprise, to make sense of the strange structure of Angie's List as only a subsidiary of Brownstone Publishing, with Angie only a marketing person in some back office.

We should hope for an end to the print publishing, and with that realization the healthcare inclusion was a bad idea.

Answered 7 years ago by oregonian

-1
Votes

This Message Board is a nice software development. I like the editing features. I have indulged in refinement of ideas in this posting, since an original posting on May 24th. It is right that readers should not have to sift through iterations on a subject. Where else is a Send Button not final? I imagine I will continue to make refinements, until someone adds a response. Here, for clarity, is the date of current refinement: May 30, 2008.

I love Angie's List, value its functionality as a Service Provider, and wish there were twenty million paying members. The List works well only where all good service providers are found, and are found fairly rated. I have a fairly long list of things I want changed, toward this end. I will try to communicate with Angie's List via this thread, since I think the healthcare venture could destroy the company. Coupled with irresponsible reporting now by nonmembers, they will get sued by slandered medical professionals. I have tried to communicate by telephone and email, and am essentially told to shut up. Hear me out, and decide whether I am negative. As I type here, many of the details are expanded beyond what Angie's List has been willing to hear from me. All suggestions have so far been rejected without comment.

Foremost, I want a simple member pricing structure that will allow me to recruit membership. I want all of my customers to be members: to be uniformly accountable to them. Somehow a customer who can not rate me, matters less to me, and I find that deeply troubling. I would bring in at least twenty members per year if I could point them to best-available pricing. Where I can't compete, and would stiff them at doubled cost, I won't. I have brought in no members except as gifts to friends, and Angie's List could care less.

I want a lowest-possible entry barrier, that is the same for everyone. Say, half-price. I suggest that membership should cost $20 per year for the first year in every location. It might be the $27 Buzz Builder says anyone may pay with the promo code LTRPROMO. It is a standard price that may be advertised. No special deals depending on who you know. No priority pricing as gifts. No more giveaway of service. No more offense to advertising respondents who have to enter personal information to even learn the cost, then are slapped with a $10 sign up fee if they aren't smart enough to evade it. A higher barrier to new or returning members is silly. An advertising respondent who has not had a chance to peek at functionality, who detects insult, may just click away. More than half of the ad money must be worse-than-wasted. Those who click away do so with prejudice. The existing free first year of service in new locations brings confusion, since it is not explained. People feel hurt when they at last get a billing, and are quite likely to pass on it. The jungle of different pricing in different cities is irrational. As seen through the internet, it does not matter to Angie's List, where we live.

A half-price fee is explained as Honored Member status. In the new locations, early responders are a treasure to Angie's List. All new members are presumed to be dedicated to success of The List, as will be demonstrated in earning of the status. The Honored Member status is earned by bringing in a combination of five new members and posted reports on services purchased, per year. This is an annual quest. No multiple-year sign ups. At a count of twenty though, Honored status is permanent.

Other than Honored Members (Members) pay a fair doubled price. $40, $54, whatever works. If they want to work toward Honored status, they will do so for their own reasons, never from arm-twisting by a service provider or by Angie's List.

For sure, a half-price admission offered in the Enhanced Cold Hard Cash Program is eliminated, wherein service providers shamefully get $25 under-the-table, and the remnant payment is good enough for Angie's List. Along with this there is an end of encouragement by Angie's List, to arm-twist their customers to submit reports, to earn the bribe. A good report well-earned, is like a tip. Servers know that asking for tips is very harmful. I have asked for reviews only two or three times, where I have worked exceptionally hard, and have done something innovative, wanting technical feedback.

Most service providers should want to be members, and should be welcomed within the rules. They pay like anyone else. Service providers with at least five reports each year and rating score of B or above, have another way of keeping Honored Member status. There are more membership options for Service Providers. They have a collaboration pool supported by Angie's List, that can only work where all service providers seeking to collaborate, are members. The collaboration pool is at minimum a means of knowing who to refer, where another business is better suited to a job. Service Providers will have pay-for-service access to lists nationwide, for business development research. Service Providers will no longer be treated as fodder, good only for unappreciated service to The List, and a hit list for extortion of hundreds of dollars per year to try to fund the silly magazine as advertisers.

Get rid of the magazine and all other junk mail. Angie's List is an internet business. It abhors advertising. Those who rate services responsibly do all the talking. Service Providers get to talk only in better-encouraged report feedback, and in the their posted standard business description. Advertising salesmen of Brownstone Publishing, will look for work elsewhere. It is wrong that membership money is wasted in writing and distributing the magazine, a service that just befuddles members.

Spend all development money on online functionality. Hire a Google wizard.

Be nice to service providers. A friend (one of the three people I have given gift memberships to), fairly reported on my services as also a customer. I would not let this person pay $57 for membership instead of the $25.50 I could pay, and then refused repayment. I told Angie's List about this, when, unbidden, this friend posted a report on my work for her. Again there was no entertainment of my wishes for affordability to new members.The only response by Angie's List was that a Page of Happiness report on me was summarily recalled. It seems to me, we were judged and convicted of lying and trickery, without benefit of any discussion or defense. In fact, it was only a breaking of "Rule Four," on membership gifting. Rules, not report integrity, are what matters. I may get the report back, if my friend surrenders the gift membership, and rejoins at the doubled price. Angie's List will miss no opportunity to hurt a would-be new member or to mindlessly enforce half-baked rules. I don't want to buy memberships, but know I could not induce a customer to be dishonest, by doing so. If my friend rejoined under Enhanced Cold Hard Cash, and I slipped her the $25 I got under the table, her report would still be in the trash. This is sick. A tilting of my keel, or a tweaking of my ears, is what drives me to push for change at Angie's List. Meanness by individuals at Angie's List is, then, a good thing.

Be aware of "Carrot" functionality as perhaps half the value of Angie's List. I displayed a "Carrot Campaign" banner at a recent trade show. It showed two sides of a coin. Heads: "Angie's List gives you a carrot. All other consumer protections only give you a stick." Tails: "I work for carrots. Find me at Angie's List." Most people get this. My banner caused some interesting conversation. Angie's List is now giving away carrots. Those who take them without investment in Angie's List, will often do so irresponsibly. This gravely adds to the danger of reports posted on medical professionals.

Are you listening, Angie's List?

Answered 7 years ago by oregonian

0
Votes

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments on Angie's List offering health care ratings. Our decision to expand into this area was born from our members asking us to do so. Many of our category additions, and other operational improvements, have been inspired by member or service company proposals.

We explored this issue very thoroughly and decided that members deserve a trusted forum where they could share information about the health care they receive. We think Angie's List is a great resource for this kind of important information sharing.

We also wanted to openly comment to Oregonian's concerns just to set the record straight. While we greatly appreciate his support for Angie's List and his desire to help us grow, (as we've said to him repeatedly) we will not be changing our policy re: allowing service companies to buy or provide Angie's List memberships at a discount.

We do not allow service companies rated on the List to give Angie's List memberships (either for free or for a discount price) to their customers for the same reason we don't allow companies to post reports on themselves: it would encourage companies to stack the deck.

Our first priority at Angie's List is to offer our members accurate, firsthand experience. To accomplish this, we have a very structured process in place that includes human review of every report before it is posted. We believe this makes Angie's List stand apart from other services that allow anonymous ratings or offer free service subsidized by advertising from anyone willing to pay for an ad.

Angie's List invites only our most highly rated companies to offer members coupons, and if their overall rating falls below a B, we deny them that privilege -- yet another way to provide members with a perk while injecting accountability for good performance.

Others have also questioned why Angie's List is a subscription service. Simply put, we believe -- and our members prove it -- that by choosing to join, there is a greater sense of obligation to participate. We aren't just an amorphous group; we are a collection of neighbors who invest in a trusted resource that allows us to share important information with each other.

Angie's List began in 1995 by offering a call-in service and monthly magazine. Both those features remain and are well received by most members. We'll be keeping them.

So, to answer your question, yes, Angie's List is listening. You have obviously given much thought to your ideas about how to modify our operations. We appreciate that effort, but we've given much thought to the operation as well. Thanks for offering your ideas again. If you have others, we'd welcome those, too.

Answered 7 years ago by Kasey from Angie's List

0
Votes

Hello again Oregonian,

Thanks, again, for your thoughtful comments. We’d love to have all of your customers as members, too! The more members Angie’s List has, the more reports we receive and the more highly rated companies we pass on to members.

We appreciate your interest in helping grow the List, but hope you understand that while we consider all ideas that come our way, all of them won’t work for us. With regard to your efforts to grow membership, we encourage you to and other service providers to use the brochures we provide through the Company Connect Web site. As I’m sure you know, we’re very concerned about the integrity of our reports, and we’ve developed a structured system to ensure accurate and fair report collection.

Our pricing structure is varied because each market is different. Pricing information is available in the FAQ of our Web site at http://www.angieslist.com/AngiesList/Visitor/price.aspx. .

We appreciate the time you’ve put into thinking about how we could further encourage participation in the list. We’ve found that our members like the M&Ms they receive when they refer new members, and they like other incentives we offer like report drives that offer fun prizes. Most members actually like the magazine and a good number of members use the coupons offered there.

Angie’s List began as a call-in service, and many of our members still rely on it to submit reports and find companies, so we’ll be keeping it. At the same time, we’re always working on making the Web site better and easier to use.

Back to incentives, you mentioned the Cold Hard Cash program. We openly talk about that incentive and have information about it on the Company Connect Web site. We also have our annual Super Service Award for the cream of the service company crop. It’s a distinction that many companies actively work to earn and keep.

In the final analysis, though, Angie’s List is a word-of-mouth network for members to find the very best service companies in their community. We are not a referral service for service providers. We also aren’t in the business development research game.


We’ll keep working to make the List the best it can be. Thanks for wanting to help that mission succeed.

Answered 7 years ago by Kasey from Angie's List

1
Vote

My first reaction was much the same--Angie's List stepped onto a slippery slope. The good people that helped us work with over a dozen service providers in the course of preserving an old home went into the health care business? My doctor is great and his referrals are excellent. How can I compare health care to the guy who didn't return to fix the holes in the breakfast room ceiling?

Then my partner went to the emergency room. The ER physician was great, and told us to get him to a neurologist within 48 hours. The physician said he had spoken to the neurologist. The neurologist's office refused to return our phone calls. I called the ER physician the next evening. He apologized, called it "a snafu," and gave us the name of another neurologist. Same practice, same outcome.

The bottom line is my partner is in great distress, and doesn't have a chance of getting in to see a specialist for over a week, if then. (The administrative staff doesn't seem to know when the physicians are available.) I'm certain the ER physician made the referrals in good faith. He said he spoke with the neurologists on call. I believe the ER physician when he tells me the specialists want to see the patient. The problem is that the neurology practice is horribly mismanaged.

Did I report the jerk who never bothered fixing the ceiling? Of course I did. Angie's List acted as mediator, and the problem was resolved. Do I want to warn others about the neurology practice who is literally holding lives hostage? You bet your a--.

We are all accountable for the quality of our work. Even health care professionals.

If Angie is willing to help, I'm in.


Answered 7 years ago by zbald1




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