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WellPoint doctors to get Zagat ratings

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USA Today reports that health insurer’s WellPoint, has teamed with Zagat Survey to let patients rate their doctors.

The Zagat ratings guide will consider trust, communication, availability and office environment. In addition to giving doctors a numerical score based on a 30-point scale, the site will include comments from patients.

The WellPoint program will be available online to more than a million members by the end of March. It plans to roll it out to all of its 35 million members but would not give a schedule.

Other insurers, including Aetna, survey patients about physicians in their networks, posting the results online for members. A few commercial websites, such as Revolution Health and RateMDs .com, offer the public an opportunity to rate doctors. But WellPoint is the largest insurer to partner with such a well-known survey firm as Zagat.

USA today says that efforts to rate doctors have brought controversy. Another type of doctor ranking, in which insurers use claims data and other methods to evaluate doctors on cost and quality, has led to lawsuits from doctor groups and warnings to insurers from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who says the ranking efforts may be misleading or designed to steer patients mainly on cost.

WellPoint, whose Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield subsidiary is among those being reviewed by Cuomo, says its Zagat survey is unlike the doctor rankings. WellPoint says its Zagat survey will not include information about medical expertise or other factors, such as malpractice settlements. At least 10 responses will be required before anything is posted.

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