Can you trust online rating sites? Does 5 stars equal better outcomes?
Contributed by Robert Pugach, MD
It’s an all too common scene. You have just been diagnosed with prostate cancer and now you have turned to the Internet to help you decide what your treatment options are and who is the best doctor for you. While there are numerous helpful educational resources out there on the World Wide Web, it can also be a very dangerous place if you take some information at face value without doing your homework.
Perhaps you have visited some of these many physician reputation and rating sites that are found on the Internet. You may have even looked at websites that rate doctors along with restaurants, cleaners and other businesses. These sites may be useful to give you some information about doctors; however, they are not necessarily always correct or reliable.
So while I encourage patients to educate themselves, I often caution them to beware of what they read online, especially when it comes to websites that rate physicians.
Unfortunately, I had an experience with a patient I recently saw for a follow-up visit that is not all that uncommon. I diagnosed him with prostate cancer several months ago and we discussed several different treatment options, including surgery, high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), cryoablation, and radiation. He chose to have a robotic radical prostatectomy at a hospital in southern California.
When he returned to see me after his surgery, he was not doing well. Sadly, the procedure had left him incontinent, meaning he had to wear 6 – 12 diapers every day. Additionally, he no longer gets erections. During our conversation, I asked him how he chose the doctor who performed his robotic surgery, his response was, “he had 5 stars on the Internet so he had to be good.”
When he asked me if HIFU was still an option because of the low rate of incontinence and erectile dysfunction, I told him that it would not help him after surgery. He is now looking at a life of urinary incontinence or possibly additional surgical procedures including placement of an artificial urinary sphincter or a urethral mesh. Both carry a risk of significant side effects and complications. I also had to tell him that he will no longer get spontaneous erections.
I wanted to learn more about the impact these rating and review sites are having on patient’s decision-making process so I read an informative article in a medical journal called, Urology. The authors evaluated the outcomes of surgical procedures at hospitals that had been well ranked in US News and World Health Report, Healthgrades (a popular health website) and Consumer Reports.
Read about what I discovered and my advice for finding the right doctor for your prostate cancer treatment here. Remember, the most important thing when choosing a doctor is having confidence in him or her to provide accurate information about the potential side effects and complications of any given procedure.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And be certain to ask your doctor how much experience he or she has with a specific surgical procedure. Experience really matters, so don’t be afraid to ask how many cases he or she has done and to ask about their results. This type of information will be much more helpful than a random website or rating in making an informed decision.
About the Author
This article was contributed by Dr. Robert Pugach of Western States HIFU, one of the most experienced HIFU practitioners in the world. Dr. Pugach offers HIFU to patients from across the United States and around the world. For more information about Dr. Pugach, call 1-844-HIFU-DOC.