Graduates of Drexel University College of Medicine have something to smile about. According to the 2016 Vitals Patients’ Choice Awards, Drexel is ranked seventh on the list of universities that produce America’s best doctors.
Vitals provides a database that allows consumers to choose physicians based on their medical needs and preferred costs of medical care. Only five percent of doctors nationwide are chosen for the Patients’ Choice Award. To win the award, a doctor must have at least a 3.5 ranking on Vitals’ four-point scale and have received at least four reviews within the calendar year. According to Vitals, winning doctors have an average of 28 reviews compared to the typical doctor, who has about eight reviews on the site. Winning doctors also have an average of two more years of experience than their peers and see their patients quickly — their patients wait about 15 minutes to see them, compared to a national average of 19 minutes and 16 seconds. Recipients have a badge indicating their status featured on their Vitals profile, and they have the option of ordering a commemorative plaque from the site. There is also a special award for doctors who have been ranked Patients’ Choice five years in a row.
The University of Illinois-Chicago produced the most Vitals Patients’ Choice doctors in 2016. Approximately 20 percent of the recipients completed their schooling overseas, with India producing the most top doctors. Vitals also noted that although 33 percent of the doctors in their system are women, only 25 percent of the awards went to women.
“All of our reviews come from people who visit the site. They may be looking for a new doctor, they may be checking on their old doctor; they visit the site and add their reviews. A small percentage does come from a third-party system, as well, so we have some relationships with outside parties,” Gina Larson-Stoller, Marketing Director of Vitals, said.
Although she was unable to reveal the details of the organization’s ranking algorithm, she did mention some of the factors involved in the process. One such factor is that the doctor must have a medical license in good standing and a clean background with no criminal record.
“[The award] is recognition that the doctor is serving the person who is most important to their practice, which is the patient, and that the patient appreciates their bedside manner, the time that they spend with them, all the various criteria that goes into the ranking that we have on Vitals,” Larson-Stoller said.
“But on the other side, too, it’s really important for patients, especially those who are searching for a doctor, to see what other patients are saying about their experience with those doctors,” she finished.
“We do the same for almost everything that we purchase nowadays. We look at the reviews and take a scan through them to make sure that we’re not going to get something that’s defective,” Larson-Stoller explained. She then compared Vitals’ reviews to reviews aimed at assuring customers that a prospective hotel does not have bedbugs or that a restaurant has good service.
“When we look at our medical reviews, we want to make sure that we get a great doctor who listens to us and treats us properly, doesn’t misdiagnose us. I think that reviews can really reveal that,” Larson-Stoller said.
According to a press release concerning the previous year’s winners, 42 percent of American adults consulted physician-rating websites in 2014. Vitals receives about 120,000,000 visitors to its site annually, and 40,000 new reviews are created monthly.
“Reviews for doctors sometimes come under scrutiny,” Larson stroller explained. Sometimes the credibility of good reviews is questionable; how can a patient tell the outcome of their own surgery? “But that’s not really what the idea of patient reviews are,” Larson-Stoller added.
“It’s really to tell other patients and people who are looking for doctors what’s important in that doctor-patient relationship, and those are the types of things that these reviews measure,” she continued.
Larson-Stoller explained that Vitals has not always examined the statistics of the schools from which their award winners graduated. “I find that probably the percentage [of winners] is closely tied to the number of students the college graduates,” she said, continuing that she believes this is why schools from the Midwestern United States have such a high percentage of graduates among the recipients.