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.Got questions?
We get a number of requests from providers to update their information, as I noted last week. Sometimes, we also get requests from providers to remove their profiles entirely, such as this request. I'd like to take a moment to surface our internal musings and let you know our plans in regards to this issue.
For some background, DocSpot's mission is to empower consumers to make better health care decisions, and we believe a big part of that is to increase transparency and navigability of information. Want to know whether a provider has a clean record? Want to search for a provider who is accepting new patients, regardless of which institution he or she works at? Our aim is to bring all of that publicly available information together into one place so people can search using one unified interface, filtering according to their preferences.
We also understand that some providers want to minimize their online presence. There could be many reasons for this. For example, we get a number of requests from mental health providers who would like their information to be hidden; one such provider referenced the unpredictability of their patients as an underlying motivation. Requests like these underscore the tension between transparency (making information accessible) and privacy (hiding information). Probably the easiest way to walk through this issue is to go through a couple different examples:
1) Personal contact information -- we have no intention of publishing personal contact information. Personal contact information is not medically relevant, and therefore falls outside of our mission. We plan on allowing providers to claim their profiles and update and hide their contact information as they wish.
As an aside, it's important to note that we have no means (and no intention) of collecting private information. We work with publicly available data, and in most cases, the personal information that people want removed is from the National Provider Identifier database. Therefore, we are not disclosing any non-public information. So, if you're a provider who's about to write in to remove your contact information from our site, please first update it with the National Provider Identifier database. Even if your information were magically removed from our site, it would re-appear the next time that we re-synchronize with that database.
2) Disciplinary actions -- disciplinary actions are public information usually published by the state's medical licensing board. We can understand a provider's reluctance to have such information highlighted if he or she has had a prior infraction. However, we believe that such records could be medically relevant, and therefore plan on showing that information. It's worthwhile to note that if we start to allow some providers to hide disciplinary actions, then that allowance undermines the confidence in the vast majority of profiles that have clean records.
These are two polar opposites but should illuminate our philosophy on this issue. There are certainly trickier issues such as patient reviews. That discussion, however, will need to wait for another time.
Have thoughts? As always, it would be great to hear from you on our discussion board.
We've been getting a number of inquiries from providers about how to update their profile. Our response sounds very embarrassing, but it's true: we'd love for providers to claim their profiles and be able to update them, but we haven't built that functionality yet.
Back when we started this venture, we didn't want to just put out a thin directory that had minimal information. So we started by working on the difficult problem of helping people search across a variety of sources and automatically building composite profiles. We thought that maybe it would take us six months or a year to do this; that was two years ago. It turns out that this approach presents many time-consuming problems. For example, some government databases will misspell some provider names. In addition to refining the algorithms, we've added all sorts of other information such as whether a provider has a clean record and how the provider has been rated by patients. Once we clear off a number of refinements to our matching algorithms, we plan on working on the UI piece to allow providers to claim and update their profiles for free.
So what can you do if you register an account right now? Currently, you can do two things: leave a review for a provider that you like (or don't like) and join the community discussion to give us feedback or to ask others what they think. If you register, you should also get a notification e-mail when certain features roll out.
As we mentioned earlier, one thing that we've heard repeatedly from patients is that they like to have access to reviews from other people. We've been aggregating patient reviews from a variety of sources, but now you can register an account and leave your very own DocSpot review.
After looking at a variety of review formats, we settled on allowing users to rate their providers on three dimensions (office and staff, bedside manner, and punctuality) and to leave an overall recommendation score. In addition, the user is encouraged to leave a textual comment to elaborate on the numeric ratings. You can see a DocSpot review here.
In addition, users can ask for their reviews to be considered a "documented encounter" by uploading some evidence of the visit (such as an explanation-of-benefits form or a receipt). Documented encounters give other users a much higher level of confidence that the encounter actually took place.
As always, we're looking for feedback. If you have any ideas on how to improve the process, please let us know!
While we continue to work away at implementing new features and increasing the accuracy of our aggregation process, a few of us got sidetracked with the flu. Not coming down with the flu (fortunately), but rather CDC's Flu App Challenge.
It started out as a simple data visualization exercise, but pretty quickly grew into a more time-consuming project. At the end of it all, it's a fun resource about the flu, incorporating some of CDC's published resources. To kick off the whole campaign, there's a hilarious quiz.
We'd really appreciate it if you would vote for us -- it could mean extra pizza money for us.
We're always on the lookout for additional sources of information to bring together so that you can get a more complete picture of potential providers. To that end, we're pleased to announce that you can now see Yelp! reviews alongside reviews from other sources. As always, there's a link for you to see more about that provider at the original source.
As an example, here's a dermatologist. And here's an internist.
If you have ideas for other sources of data to integrate, please let us know.