Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer


Posted by Dr. Vollmer on April 23, 2013


You can evaluate your psychiatrist, as with any service provider, online. Drug addicts being told they can’t get refills can rant about their physician’s poor bedside manner and lack of empathy. Patient satisfaction evaluations are being used to determine physician salaries, as test scores are now tied to teacher’s pay in some school districts. Technology has made it such that the consumer has a voice, and although one does not know to trust the consumer’s opinion, in an uncertain world, internet evaluations through crowd-sourcing, give information which guides the client through the confusing maze of choosing a trusted professional. As Sandy Banks stated in the LA Times, yesterday,–banks-yelp-backlash-20130423,0,7103175.column?page=2 , those with negative complaints tend to be more detailed and hence get put higher up in the algorithms, than those with flowery, complimentary feedback. Hence, negative reviews tend to float to the top, and in the case of businesses, if they advertise, then they can change the algorithm such that more positive feedback floats to the top. So, how much anxiety should a new psychiatrist feel when a patient calls and says “I was given your name by another doctor, but I googled you and found some negative reviews, so I am not sure if I should see you or not, but I thought I would give you a call  to see what you sound like on the telephone.” “The best way to see if I can help you, is to come in and meet me and form your own opinion” would be my advice to this young psychiatrist. The personal nature of this relationship makes it such that it is not “one-size fits all,” it is not “fungible”. As such, I would suggest this new psychiatrist say, “the question is not whether I am a good psychiatrist, but rather, the question is am I the right psychiatrist for you?” Crowd-sourcing has no way to address this “goodness of fit” approach to this very personalized service. On the one hand, this is terribly obvious, but on the other hand, it is hard not to flip out over a negative written evaluation, as the internet gives a certain permanence to words. Psychiatry is in transition. As such, psychiatrists need to cope with negativity on the internet. My suggestion-we all need to blog to remind folks out there that crowd-sourcing, when it comes to a psychiatrist, is out of  context. We need to promote this doctor/patient relationship without sounding defensive or paranoid. Once again, this is a new world for my profession. We are learning as we are going. The challenge of the internet continues. We, psychiatrists,  used to worry about protecting patient privacy, and of course, we still do, but now we also worry about protecting our privacy, as well. I think there is little hope for the latter. I can live with that.

2 Responses to “Crowd-Sourcing”

  1. Shelly said

    A young psychiatrist has alot more to fear than a more well-established one. Sure, blogging helps to spread your name and ideology such that potential patients get to “know you” far before they ever meet you, but aren’t young psychiatrist’s the product of the most recent med-school dogma and won’t they spout the refrain they most recently learned from their attendings and residents? I like to think that therapists try to “fit” with their patients as much as their patients search for the “best physicians” to “treat” their illnesses. You put that very well.

    • Shirah Vollmer said

      Yes and no. A young psychiatrist does not have the long history of patients and as such, they can create a halo effect in which prospective patients can idealize them, since they have no known track record. Yes, trying to “fit” with the patient is an old concept, now being dismissed in this age of fungible providers, but personalized service will always be valued and appreciated. The issue is who will pay for that. Like hotels, there will be a tiered system, but unlike hotels, patient feedback is not the same as customer feedback because the relationships are more complicated. Thanks, as always.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: