Don't just count stars: How to find the right doctor

Review portals are supposed to make the search for a doctor easier. Experts advise, however, that it is better not to rely solely on the assessments on these pages. There are several reasons for this

"Do you know a good doctor?" This question comes up often in conversations with friends and relatives. Instead of asking people around them, who don't always have a good tip at hand, many look for an answer on the Internet. Doctors are rated with asterisks or comments on rating portals. But can you rely on it?

Portals offer an overview

At least not only, advises Christiane Rock from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv). The ratings should not be used as the sole decision criterion for choosing a doctor. "Personal recommendations and personal contact remain important."

In addition to the search for doctors, the portals also offer health information. "So if I am looking for a specialist, I will certainly get an initial overview of where the next specialist is, which additional qualifications and offers they have available and whether they have special opening times," says the consumer advocate.

The problem with the stars

But when it comes to assessing human and medical qualities, it becomes difficult."Each star is a subjective assessment that is often not verifiable," says Roland Stahl of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), which represents the interests of freelance doctors and psychotherapists. In addition, according to Stahl, those who want to complain are more likely to write there. "Those who are satisfied express themselves less often," he says.

In the end, it all comes down to how you get along with each other, says Stahl. Doctors in particular are always in personal contact with their patients. "And these relationships have often existed for a very long time." The individual relationship of trust plays a decisive role.

Advertising or real review?

One problem is that there are hardly any objective assessments of the quality of general practitioners. "People would be really interested in properly verified information on issues such as the quality of treatment, but there is a lack of that," criticizes Jann Ohlendorf from the Independent Patient Advice Germany (UPD).

Most doctor review portals have some doubts about independence. According to Christiane Rock, they finance themselves through advertising - and through those who are assessed themselves. "Doctors can buy prominent positions and thus the presentation of their practice," explains the consumer advocate.

In this way, doctors are given the prospect of a better hit rate for corresponding queries via search engines. An example: With a large evaluation portal, doctors can choose between different premium packages and then formulate individual evaluation criteria. Or they get high-quality texts created by the portal operator.

"Consumers find it difficult to judge what a meaningful evaluation is or what an advertisement is," says Christiane Rock, explaining the problem behind it.

Be skeptical and take a closer look

The UPD also criticizes this and advises a healthy dose of skepticism: "There is a lack of transparency. How did the results and recommendations for doctors or practices come about?" Asks UPD spokesman Jann Ohlendorf. Most portals, however, only provided incomplete information on the amount, origin and topicality of the doctor data and ratings.

How can you orientate yourself? As with other health information on the Internet, you should see which provider is behind the portal - if this is not clearly evident, it is worth taking a look at the imprint. In addition, there should be a sufficient number of current individual reviews behind each evaluation. "That increases the expressiveness," says Christiane Rock.

Search on multiple portals

The consumer advocate therefore recommends the free and advertising-free research platform Weisse Liste from the Bertelsmann Foundation, which is under the patronage of the Federal Patient Commissioner. Jann Ohlendorf from the UPD also gives this recommendation.

As a general rule: Anyone who takes the trouble to read reviews should do so on several portals, advises Christiane Rock. And compare them to get a picture. But she also says: "No portal can replace the personal impression on site."