Photos © Don Feria
What's the worst thing you've
been called by an irate ratee? I've been called
every name in the book: greedy, money-hungry, a-hole.
Just about everything you can think of, I've been called.
Some people have accused you
of starting a "witch hunt" against doctors. Are you
a crusader or just a savvy businessman? Um, would
I call myself a crusader? Well, I guess I am passionate
about providing the website for patients to be able
to share their experiences, so I guess that makes me
a little bit of a crusader.
Have you seen a doctor since
you started the website in 2003? Yeah, I got my
nose broken playing basketball and the doctor did a
really good job. In fact, I think I rated her on the
site, a positive rating. But the website didn't come
up in our conversation.
You'd better hope you don't
get sick... Yes, I hope that for sure, and not just
because of that website. It has crossed my mind.
RateMDs now gets more new ratings
in Canada than in the US. Do Canadian patients have
more to complain about? I don't think that's the
reason why we're getting more visits it's because
we've gotten more press there. On the other hand, because
of the socialized medical system, I do believe they
have more to complain about. Canada has all the complaints
that US patients have, but also complaints about not
getting appointments with doctors. You don't see that
in the US very much.
You live in California now.
What do you like better about Governor Schwarzenegger,
his politics or his movies? Tough question. I like
How about his recent proposal
to introduce a universal healthcare system in California?
It's probably a bad idea. I'm a huge believer in competition.
If you try to have government run it, then going to
the doctor will be like going to the Department of Motor
Vehicles I think it will be a disaster. The fall
of all the communism was based on a lack of competition,
which would have prevented services from falling into
decay. I don't know why more people don't understand
that. I'm a big fan of capitalism.
Do you have trouble sleeping
with the threat of litigation constantly hanging over
you? I don't really get worried about it anymore,
because I got all these same threats from university
professors. That went on for years and years and nothing
came of it. There's probably more of a chance from a
doctor, but I'm not losing sleep.
You said you started your first
site, RateMyProfessor.com, because of an "ogre" of a
prof who made your life miserable. Do you ever think
maybe you should have just studied harder? No, I
don't believe so. I studied more for that class than
all my others, I think. She was really nasty, you know?
I would go to see her after class for extra help and
she was really insulting. I would see other students
come out, many in tears. Just a very combative atmosphere,
she really had a chip on her shoulder.
you a jock or a nerd in university? Definitely a
Star Trek or Star
Wars? I like 'em both so much, it's hard to
say. I guess I am definitely a fan of the old Star
Trek and the old Star Wars, but I'm not sure
I can choose between them. Let's just say, I'll take
Lord of the Rings above both of them.
On RateMyProfessors, students
can rate teachers on "hotness" the hottest ones
get chili peppers next to their names. Why'd you leave
that feature off RateMDs? Well, we thought that
medical care deserves more seriousness, I guess, because
the worst thing a prof can do to you is fail you when
you shouldn't be failed, but with doctors it can be
a matter of life and death so we didn't think the chili
peppers would be appropriate. It was something we discussed
Who do you admire more, Bill
Gates or Steve Jobs[Apple founder]? I really don't
like either of them. Both of them are monopolists, they
do a lot of dirty tricks to their competition. Like
when Microsoft used to charge different computer manufacturers
for Windows on every new computer they sold whether
or not it was installed stuff like that makes
my skin crawl. So, neither.
What if one of them offered
to buy you out? If the price is right, I would probably
sell. But they would definitely have to pay a premium
over what anyone else would pay and I wouldn't
work for them.
Where did you grow up? Rochester,
Did you have a nickname in high
school? Yeah. It was Flop.
Does it bother you that drug-seeking
patients could easily use your site to locate script-happy
docs? No, because it's kind of similar to when students
use RateMyProfessors to say, "This prof is really easy,
there's no work in his class." If you get the same kind
of feedback about getting drugs from a doctor, that
will get back to the doctor eventually and give him
feedback for changing his ways, that will actually help
things in the long run.
How would you rate yourself
on punctuality, helpfulness and knowledge, the criteria
on RateMDs? I used to always think I should add
my own name to every website I have so people can bash
me. To tell you the truth, I am so thick skinned now
sticks and stones kind of thing. I think I'm
a pretty good programmer, I've done well at all my jobs.
I think I'd get a pretty good rating but I'm sure some
people would give me a bad rating.
What are the most common complaints
on RateMDs? The common complaints in Canada are
that people can't get an appointment either because
doctors are not accepting new patients or the waiting
time is too long, long waits in the waiting rooms, and
being rushed out of the appointment without getting
questions answered. Those are the most common ones.
Also being treated rudely, especially by the staff.
Doctors' receptionists seem to really have too much
power, and they tend to abuse it, is the impression
I get from lots of complaints.
Do you really think this is
the best way to monitor a doctor's performance?
The primary problem is that the colleges of physicians
in the US, the state medical boards don't
make public any of the complaints about doctors. A doctor
could get a hundred complaints about the same issue,
but if the board doesn't deem it worthy enough to censor
them, then no one will know a single complaint was made.
Some issues aren't even considered by state boards,
like customer service, politeness, things like that.
RateMDs is filling that niche. I told them if they wanted
to kill the site, they could just make the info public.
But they won't do it. I'm very confident of that.
Anything new for RateMDs on
the horizon? We're working on adding office staff
ratings to the site, and we are also going to add something
to indicate whether doctors are accepting new patients.
Interview conducted by Sam Solomon
What your patients
are saying about you Real quotes from RateMDs.com
"He has zero bedside manner,
rushes people through the revolving door of medicare
to collect his dime at the other end. I hope the
door hits him in the ass on the way out!"
"Had an operation on my foot.
I felt the knife cut into me and screamed. He
froze it again and proceeded. Turned out well,
but what a nightmarish experience."
"As I was explaining the problems
to her she said, 'Shut up I am the one asking
"Told me I had an ear infection
in opposite ear to the one I lost hearing in."
"Upon presenting with long term
vaginal bleeding (6+ months) he told me I needed
to get over it and buy a diaper bag or stocks
in Kotex, after not even running any tests..."
"He would rather talk about
golf and how busy he is than to address my issues."
"So what if he talks about GOLF?
Big deal! The guy has personality and a LIFE too!"
"Doctor missed a critical diagnosis
and exhibited terrible bedside manner suggesting
during a patient exam that he could not give a
confident diagnosis 'until the autopsy is done.'
My recommendation: STAY AWAY!"
Read what our HEALTH LAWYER
has to say about what to do if a patient slanders
you on the net, page 30.