Training aid: Ratings sites provide feedback for residents

March 1, 2010

Winston-Salem, N.C. - For Wake Forest University's dermatology residency program, DrScore.com provides patient feedback that program officials hope creates better dermatologists, says Steven R. Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., professor of dermatology, pathology and public health, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and founder of DrScore.com.

Winston-Salem, N.C. - For Wake Forest University's dermatology residency program, DrScore.com provides patient feedback that program officials hope creates better dermatologists, says Steven R. Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., professor of dermatology, pathology and public health, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and founder of DrScore.com.

One resident who has used DrScore.com for three years is Andrew D. Lee, M.D., Wake Forest's chief dermatology resident.

"I always considered myself pretty good with patients," he says. But his first quarterly reports reflected high marks everywhere except the degree to which he involved patients in their treatment plans.

Since then, Dr. Lee says he's made changes, including asking patients which drug or vehicle they prefer. His scores have increased accordingly, he reports - and patients are more apt to use medications they helped to select.

"This is just one example of how using the DrScore system has made me a better doctor,” he says. “Residency training is not only about gaining specialty knowledge, but it's also about learning to interact with patients effectively."

In this regard, Dr. Feldman says DrScore.com - which serves about 1,000 doctors total in various specialties - can supplement faculty and other evaluations typically used to grade residents.

Without this tool, "It's a little unwieldy having to stop the usual flow of things to get feedback from patients," he says.

Dr. Lee adds that in many training programs, "There is no way for residents or physicians in training to get feedback from their patients anonymously, so that the feedback is honest.”

Moreover, he says DrScore.com feedback can reach residents while their habits are most malleable. Dr. Lee says Amy McMichael, M.D., director of Wake Forest University's dermatology residency program, has secured a grant from the Association of Professors of Dermatology to use DrScore.com as a tool for tracking residents' performance over time.

This study was launched in fall 2009 with all nine of Wake Forest's dermatology residents, and could run for multiple years, he says.

Although Wake Forest's dermatology department is the first academic department to use the service, Dr. Feldman says he'd like to bring other departments on board at Wake Forest and beyond.

The time for such a service could be right, he says, because "There's a growing sentiment among all the specialties in the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) that the certification process should include a patient feedback component."

In 2009, the ABMS adopted new standards for its Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program that include surveys of patients and peers to evaluate physicians' communication skills. The American Board of Dermatology (ABD) has required patient and peer surveys as part of the Evaluation of Practice Performance component of its MOC process since 2006, according to the ABD Web site. DT

Disclosure: Dr. Lee reports no relevant financial interests. Dr. Feldman is the founder of DrScore.com.