UAB Medicine first in Alabama to empower patients with physician ratings

In contrast to unreliable third-party physician rating and review systems, UAB Medicine is empowering consumers to make informed health care decisions based on reliable information from actual patients through its online physician directory.

vera rankingPatients’ ratings and reviews of their UAB physicians are now available to encourage informed decisions.The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System is the first health care provider in Alabama to make patients’ feedback about their UAB physicians available online in an effort to empower consumers to make informed decisions in their health care.

“We are dedicated to transparency and accountability, and we constantly look for ways our organization, and each faculty and staff member, can improve the services we provide,” said UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany. “This initiative will play an important role in that commitment.”

Ratings on a five-star scale, as well as reviews, appear with physician profiles in the UAB Medicine Find a Provider directory for each physician with at least 30 patient-submitted surveys. Star ratings are based on data collected from patients using the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Medical Practice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys. CAHPS surveys do not vary from one provider or facility to another, so the resulting data are standardized and allow for more accurate comparisons. To keep information relevant and current, ratings are updated monthly and are based on the previous 12 months of surveys, and patient comments are removed after they are a year old.

At its launch, more than 81 percent of eligible physicians had a posted rating of at least four stars on the five-star scale.

“It’s clear that most patients already think highly of the majority of UAB Medicine providers and the care environment they and their staffs maintain, but we can always do better,” Ferniany said. “Our goal is that each patient who puts his or her trust in our team experiences nothing but the highest level of world-class comfort and care.”

UAB Medicine’s Office of Patient Experience and Engagement conducted seminars and coaching sessions that included steps physicians and their staffs can take to improve their patient service and ratings.

Unlike existing third-party physician rating services that have a smaller sample size and no quality-control mechanism to validate information submitted, 100 percent of the ratings and reviews available at come directly from real patients, verified to have seen the rated physician within the last year. Third-party rating sites often exist with little if any oversight and feature outdated, inaccurate and in some cases libelous information.

“We live in a world that values transparency,” Ferniany said. “From Amazon and Angie’s List to Urbanspoon, consumers expect to see feedback and a star rating system. The problem is that many times these ratings are not accurate and do not reflect the care we provide. It makes sense for us to implement a system of our own, using reliable data and comments from recent patients.”

According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about two-thirds of the general public are aware of online physician rating sites, and slightly more than one-third have used such sites when selecting a physician. A 2015 PNC Healthcare Consumer Survey found that 50 percent of millennials and Gen-Xers use online reviews to find a new health care provider, and that percentage is only slightly less – at 40 percent – for baby boomers.

While UAB is the first in Alabama to make such a rating and review system available to patients, others have found success with the practice. University of Utah Health Care was the first in the nation to launch such a program, and hospitals such as Cleveland Clinic have since followed.