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At DocSpot, our mission is to connect people with the right health care by helping them navigate publicly available information. We believe the first step of that mission is to help connect people with an appropriate medical provider, and we look forward to helping people navigate other aspects of their care as the opportunities arise. We are just at the start of that mission, so we hope you will come back often to see how things are developing.

An underlying philosophy of our work is that right care means different things to different people. We also recognize that doctors are multidimensional people. So, instead of trying to determine which doctors are "better" than others, we offer a variety of filter options that individuals can apply to more quickly discover providers that fit their needs.

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Wanted: product developer -- passion required, credentials optional

by jerry on July 31, 2011

Product development never seems to go quite as fast as we would like, and we've ended up with an impressive stack of front-end web development tasks still to be done. Thus, that's the next area that we would like to hire for. Know anyone who might be interested? Here's the scoop.

Product development never seems to go quite as fast as we would like, and we've ended up with an impressive stack of front-end web development tasks still to be done. Thus, that's the next area that we would like to hire for. Know anyone who might be interested? Here's the scoop.

In case you're wondering, we value people's enthusiasm and their ability to learn far more than we value prior experience. For this role, we're happy to train the right person. Are you someone who yearns to make a difference in the world of health care? Let us know!

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User feedback

by liz on July 22, 2011

Have you ever stared at a word for so long that it starts to look funny to you? I?m pretty sure this has happened to me with words as diverse and, well, embarrassingly normal, as ?roof?, ?color,? ?chimney?, and ?fridge.? (Fortunately, they look fine to me now, so don?t worry too much.)

Unfortunately, it seems that the opposite happens when you spend too much time looking at a website. It doesn?t start to look funny; in fact, the things that may have looked odd at first start to seem completely normal, and you?ll probably even forget that they ever looked strange to you at all. This is why we value user feedback - hopefully none of our users spends quite as much time on our site as we do (if you do, you should probably go out and play - or get back to your own job), so your perspective is different from ours, and we need to hear it. We want to know what?s intuitive, what?s abysmally counter-intuitive, what you want to see that we don?t currently have, what you do see but honestly would rather not.

Have you ever stared at a word for so long that it starts to look funny to you? I?m pretty sure this has happened to me with words as diverse and, well, embarrassingly normal, as ?roof?, ?color,? ?chimney?, and ?fridge.? (Fortunately, they look fine to me now, so don?t worry too much.)

Unfortunately, it seems that the opposite happens when you spend too much time looking at a website. It doesn?t start to look funny; in fact, the things that may have looked odd at first start to seem completely normal, and you?ll probably even forget that they ever looked strange to you at all. This is why we value user feedback - hopefully none of our users spends quite as much time on our site as we do (if you do, you should probably go out and play - or get back to your own job), so your perspective is different from ours, and we need to hear it. We want to know what?s intuitive, what?s abysmally counter-intuitive, what you want to see that we don?t currently have, what you do see but honestly would rather not.

One thing we?ve been learning from the user feedback we?ve gotten so far is that the sheer length of the lists of medical schools, professional interests, insurance plans, etc. in our filters can be, to make a large understatement, a bit overwhelming. I, with my irreparably skewed perspective, may be familiar enough with the site that I have an idea of what?s in the list, how it?s organized, when it will stop, and how I can efficiently use it to hone in on what I?m looking for - but it doesn?t make as much sense to someone seeing it for the first time. Some people told us the lists are so long they wouldn?t look through them; others see them and then assume that just scanning through the results of their initial search is the most efficient way to find an appropriate provider. If you want to find a provider who accepts Blue Cross insurance, attended Stanford for medical school, and treats a lot of patients with high blood pressure, you?re something close to infinitely better off if you use the filters than if you look through the list of search results until you find the right doctor - but this isn?t necessarily obvious, and we want to fix that.

The plus side of having unmanageably long lists of options is that we really do have a huge breadth and depth of information on doctors and other health care providers, and we?ve spent a lot of time standardizing and organizing it to make it digestible. It?s just a matter of making it easy to use at the same time. This could involve using drop-down menus instead of lists, adding search boxes for people to type in the medical school or insurance company they?re looking for, organizing the lists differently (for example, separating medical schools into tiers based on their rankings), or something else entirely. As we consider these and other potential changes, we?d love to hear your thoughts at our discussion boards. Just don?t stay there so long that ?forum? starts to look funny - I hear that can happen.

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Redesigning the user interface

by jerry on July 16, 2011

We've known for a while that our user interface needs a redesign. The search results page sports a powerful filter interface. You can say, for example, that you want you to see doctors that accept any Aetna insurance except for Aetna Select. You can say you want to see any doctor in a certain area who has graduated from either University of Texas Southwestern or University of Virginia medical schools, all in the same query. As you update, the counts next to each option also update, indicating how many providers would still match if you were to filter on that option. The problem?

We've known for a while that our user interface needs a redesign. The search results page sports a powerful filter interface. You can say, for example, that you want you to see doctors that accept any Aetna insurance except for Aetna Select. You can say you want to see any doctor in a certain area who has graduated from either University of Texas Southwestern or University of Virginia medical schools, all in the same query. As you update, the counts next to each option also update, indicating how many providers would still match if you were to filter on that option. The problem?

The interface ends up with a lot of checkboxes. And long lists. We closed some of the filter trees so that users wouldn't be overwhelmed with the number of choices, but that created the problem of some users not knowing about the options. There are other issues as well. With so many filter options, which attributes are most important? Some people know what's important to them (whether that be residency, years of practice, or patient reviews). Some others would like more guidance in sorting out which doctors to further research. Another issue that has come up is people wondering how are the results sorted.

Lots of questions to tackle. And this time, we'll have to keep in mind that we ourselves are not the target users. If you have ideas on how the user interface should be re-designed, please post it to our discussion board or contact us. It'd be great to hear from you. Thanks.

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Behind the scenes

by jared on July 07, 2011

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of our website? Not just the gears behind the shiny stuff: the colorful web design, the zigzag of buttons and boxes and widgets. I'm talking about the boring bits ? the aggregation and pruning of data that serves as the site's backbone. The oft over-looked life of the bleary-eyed programmer toiling away in his cubicle. Ever wonder about this guy? No?

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of our website? Not just the gears behind the shiny stuff: the colorful web design, the zigzag of buttons and boxes and widgets. I'm talking about the boring bits ? the aggregation and pruning of data that serves as the site's backbone. The oft over-looked life of the bleary-eyed programmer toiling away in his cubicle. Ever wonder about this guy? No?

It's okay. I don't blame you. Admittedly, my life isn't all that glamorous. My primary job is to process data and try to get it into structured form. In other words, given a list of words or names, I try to have the software sort them into meaningful categories, like Specialty, Clinical Interests, or Medical School.

It's a little like teaching a robot to pick up colored legos from their respective buckets - if the buckets had been sorted by a two-year-old. At best, most are in the right bucket, but a fair amount of red legos are in the blue bucket and most of the yellows are in the green. At worst, the lego pieces are strewn all over the floor - Medical School, Residency, Dental School, Fellowship - all in the same pile.

Here's an example of what I mean. This time there are just two buckets: Last Name and Credential. You'd think it would be pretty simple to distinguish someone's name from his credentials, you know ? like Dr. Smith vs. ?MD?. Pretty straightforward stuff.

You'd be surprised.

Try looking up ?Larry Keyser? on the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare website. Can't find him? Neither can I. But wait, that doesn't make sense - here's his profile. What's going on here?

When I review the data file again, I discover the problem: the data source mixed this provider's last name and credentials. According to the source, this doctor's last name is "Keyser Optometrist". Now I need to tell the software to take the green lego "Optometrist" out of the red bucket with all the other last names. And it's hard enough to get robots to recognize colors.

I am the programmer (one of them anyway) who works on issues like these, tirelessly trying to perfect the ghastly data in the public databases we work with. But I'm more than willing - every little improvement we make helps push us closer toward our goal of bringing transparency to healthcare. That's what makes it all worth it.

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Question of the Week

by liz on June 30, 2011

Our discussion boards are in the early stages of becoming a lively place for conversation among patients, doctors, and anyone who has opinions or questions about finding a great health care provider. If you have any thoughts you?d like to share with the DocSpot community, this is the place to go.

Just to add to the excitement, we?re starting a tradition of posting a new Question of the Week once every...you guessed it...week! This week?s question is ?When you?re looking for a doctor, how important are patient reviews??

Our discussion boards are in the early stages of becoming a lively place for conversation among patients, doctors, and anyone who has opinions or questions about finding a great health care provider. If you have any thoughts you?d like to share with the DocSpot community, this is the place to go.

Just to add to the excitement, we?re starting a tradition of posting a new Question of the Week once every...you guessed it...week! This week?s question is ?When you?re looking for a doctor, how important are patient reviews??

At DocSpot, we aggregate as many reviews as possible (this opthalmologist, for example, has 21), in order to offer patient reviews and ratings as one of many factors that people can choose to consider as they search for health providers at www.DocSpot.com. Some people won't make a decision without looking at reviews; others tend to be skeptical of online reviews or just want to form their own opinions about a doctor regardless of what other people think. Where do you fall in this spectrum? We?d love to hear your thoughts via the discussion board.

If you don?t have any particular opinions about patient reviews, that?s fine too - check back often for new questions to ponder, responses to chew on, and opportunities to share what you think.

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