Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

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July 8, 2014
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Trying to find a doctor or specialist? Website tracks physicians’ length of practice, specialty areas, training and patient assessments

Say you’ve just moved to Grass Valley, and you want to find a family practice physician and perhaps one who specializes in gerontology. The old-fashioned way was to ask neighbors, work associates, or friends you might have here.

But now, that can be done on the Internet, and your search will likely provide better information.

To make it easier to find a local doctor, Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) has partnered with the nation’s largest consumer-based health search site, Healthgrades. From a main office in Denver, Healthgrades has amassed information on over 3 million U.S. health care providers (doctors, dentists, chiropractors, and others), including representatives of more than 1,000 practicing specialties. On its site, Healthgrades.com, you can find lists of doctors and their specialties, together with how long they’ve practiced, the procedures they perform, how their patients assess them, where they trained and other specific and objective information that might help you make your decision.

The new partnership will help to insure that information on local doctors and services is kept up to date, according to Debbie Plass, RN, vice president for marketing and business development at SNMH.

Debbie Wagner, RN, director of physician recruitment and community outreach at SNMH, said having this kind of extensive information “helps you feel a connection with the doctor even before you pick up the phone.”

If you use the Internet as a tool to find doctors or search for other health information, you won’t be alone, according to a survey done recently by the Pew Internet Project. Pew found that 87 percent of U.S. adults use the Internet, and 72 percent of Internet users say they’ve looked online to find health care information in the past 12 months.

Jessica DeJong, public relations and communications manager for Healthgrades, said Americans visit that site a million times a day, searching for a physician or a hospital. Over 4,200 hospitals are covered on their site.

The Pew project ranked the most commonly researched topics as specific diseases or conditions. Information available on Healthgrades can help consumers find doctors based on specific disease, condition, and procedure needs, according to DeJong.

“The three things that comprise an informed decision for a consumer are, does the doctor have experience treating my condition, is the doctor affiliated with a hospital that has the lowest risks for complications and mortality, and do other patients recommend this doctor,” she said.

Although Healthgrades lists doctors and their backgrounds, the site does not “rate” them, DeJong pointed out.

“We don’t rate doctors,” she said. “One part of an informed decision is to take into account patient experience surveys. We allow patients to complete an eight-question survey about their experience with the physician and his or her practice. We have more than 4 million of these surveys posted on Healthgrades.”

By one estimate, there are more than 40 organizations online that claim to help consumers find physicians, hospitals, and other health information.

What sets Healthgrades apart, according to DeJong, is that her organization provides information about a doctor’s experience treating your condition, whether they’re affiliated with a hospital that has demonstrated low or reduced risk, and whether other patients recommend the doctor.

“No other site brings together those three pieces of vital information,” she claimed.

Wagner said she encourages consumers to explore the site when seeking a new doctor or faced with the need for specialty care or treatment for a newly diagnosed condition.

“We have excellent doctors right here in our community and we like our patients to get their care close to home,” she said.

She added that new residents might also call the hospital directly.

“We keep a list of primary doctors who are currently taking patients,” she said.

SNMH also has a “Find a Doctor” link on its website. The hospital can be reached by phone at 530-274-6800.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.


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The Union Updated Jul 8, 2014 01:01AM Published Jul 8, 2014 01:01AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.