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New site to review doctors online creates stir

Emma Russell, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 26 July 2018, 5:58AM
The online platform's aim is to connect Kiwis with primary healthcare providers. (Photo / Getty)
The online platform's aim is to connect Kiwis with primary healthcare providers. (Photo / Getty)

A new website allowing New Zealanders to rate, review and compare their healthcare providers is creating stir among the medical profession.

The site, dubbed Whitecoat, has launched today with more than 4000 New Zealand doctors, dentists and physiotherapists from around the country signed up in a bid to become "more transparent".

Other medical specialists say it's a concern that will cause more harm than good.

"I think we are going to start to see a high level of disquiet as soon as people start putting experiences on the site," chair of New Zealand Medical Association Dr Kate Baddock said.

The free and publicly available website allows patients to see exactly what they will be paying, book an appointment online and review their experience as well as reading others.

"Historically, the healthcare market has lacked information, transparency and comparability," Whitecoat chief executive Matthew Donnellan said.

He said generally we don't think a lot about our health until it affects us, or someone we love, and it becomes a really important part of our life.

"Consequently, many have experienced over-servicing, wide cost variation and avoidable hospitalisations," Donnellan said.

He said he hoped Whitecoat would change those issues.

"Our goal is to let people know exactly what their options are when they need it. The more information we have, the more we can make available to people and the better our health service can be.

"We think it's absurd that you can book a holiday on your phone yet if you need to see a GP tomorrow you have no idea of the costs or what's available or how long wait times will be," Donnellan said.

Former New Zealander of the Year, Dr Lance O'Sullivan, supported the new service, saying it would keep healthcare professionals accountable.

"When you're looking for a healthcare provider, you want to be sure you're seeing someone that will give you the best possible care," O'Sullivan said.

Baddock said NZMA had several concerns, one being who would be monitoring the comments.

"If everybody used it, irrespective of their outcome then it would have more value because it wouldn't be just those who had a really good experience or a really bad experience."

She said experience in healthcare was coloured by the issues brought up in consultation and separating that was problematic.

For the last four years the online service had been running in Australia and now had more than 220,000 practitioner listings. It was used by tens of thousands of Australians each week.

Baddock said the situation in Australia was different to our own.

"Here most practices have a website where you can find out the sort of information and we also PHO websites which advertise all the doctors in the area."

Donnellan said he had no doubt it would have the same impact in New Zealand and planned to grow the service so it could be used by all providers of health, public and private, "so that all New Zealanders could make the best decisions about their health".

He was also looking to cut all paper trails so that patients could have better record of referrals and be aware of exactly how long wait times wo

ON AIR: Simon Barnett and Phil Gifford Afternoons

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