A Public Platform To Rate Doctors?

On 13 November 2020, the Straits Times reported that a group of medical practitioners had taken issue with DoctorxDentist.

In summary, the position(s) of the doctors who disapprove of being listed on DoctorxDentist is as follows:

A war of attrition over the right to list and profile medical practitioners in Singapore on a website run by a start-up has snowballed, with hundreds of doctors wanting to be disassociated from it.

They have taken issue with the DoctorxDentist (DxD) website, which profiles medical professionals, allows purported patients to review the doctors and facilitates appointments. It also offers cost estimates for consultation.

It started with a group of doctors who say they did not give permission to the site to use photos and details from their own websites to be copied and used on DxD. They also dispute the reviews, saying there is no way to verify if the patients are real.

I do not think that doctors have a legal right to demand that they be removed from DoctorxDentist’s site, provided:

  1. No private or confidential information is disclosed; and
  2. The website does not use any proprietary information or intellectual property information without the appropriate permissions or authorisations.

While there is a potential for abuse, this can be addressed by moderating posts to ensure, as far as possible, that posts are genuine and do not disclose confidential information.

With adequate safeguards, the platform provides members of the public with firsthand accounts on clinical care standards, bedside manners and billing practices – although insofar as the latter is concerned it may be of limited utility as conditions that appear similar may in fact require a different treatment protocol.

The platform is also a timely reminder to “professionals” such as doctors and lawyers that apart from technical competence, they are still in the service industry and, in keeping with the times – make the effort to build trust and relationships as opposed to adopting a paternalistic approach that goes beyond professional, dispassionate distance.

If we rate restaurant service, assess the professionalism of Grab drivers or service staff generally, there’s no reason in principle doctors should not have to take patients’ (meaningful) input into account.

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