BetterDoctor, a Silicon Valley start-up, wants to ease the pain for patients seeking the right physician through a searchable website and mobile app.
There were 897,420 professionally active physicians in the United States in March 2015, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. How then, in a maze of insurance coverage and medical specialties, is a healthcare consumer to select a good doctor?
Perhaps the difficulty of finding a good doctor, with availability, and who takes your insurance, is a struggle that most adults face in their lifetimes. Certainly, there are several big-name ranking insitutions out there crunching numbers, claiming to objectively identify the best doctors.
Whether you are looking for a physician for an acute medical issue, a surgeon to replace your knee, a caring but firm gerontologist to work with a stubborn aging parent, or the right pediatrician to care for your newborn for the next 18 years, selecting a physician can be a daunting task.
Even with so much information only a Google search away, the task of wading through pages of potentially relevant information about a doctor can be quite overwhelming.
When Ari Tulla, founder and CEO BetterDoctor, Inc., emigrated from Finland to San Francisco, he and his family brought their health problems with them. He spent a great deal of time trying to find the right physician.
"Even with a very decent health plan," Tulla told nuviun, "there was no one to really take responsibility to get us to the right doc. All the information was out there, but it was in too many buckets."
There has to be a better way
This was the problem that led Tulla to start looking for “a better way” to find a doctor. Tulla, and his Nokia colleague Tapio Tolvanen, founded BetterDoctor, a healthcare consumer tool that makes physician quality and, most recently, costs searchable.
Photo courtesy of BetterDoctor, Inc.
In a press release, Tulla indicated:
Our vision is to take the guessing game out of selecting the right doctor. Wouldn’t you want a service that helps you find the best local specialist who focuses on your condition, accepts your insurance, and is available tomorrow? With the help of new funding, we are getting closer to the vision every day.
Rather than spending hours scouring insurance company websites for covered physicians, then researching those physicians online, and then calling to try to schedule an appointment, BetterDoctor users have access to quality metrics, insurance verification, and physician contact information all on one site.
During a phone conversation, Tulla told nuviun:
If you go to the UHC website, you don’t see much more than the names, specialties, and locations. You don’t even know if they accept new patients, what they look like, or what they went to school for.
How it works
Tulla and Tolvanen sought to create a searchable database of US physicians based on objective data that dives deeper than patient anecdotes and simple reviews. The BetterDoctor ratings, according to nuviun’s conversation with Tulla, are based on three inputs:
- Qualifications: the quality of physicians’ education (i.e., where they went to school) and active medical licenses.
- Experience: their experience and training (i.e., the quality of training hospitals, years of experience, and research contributions).
- Referrals: the quantity of referrals from other doctors, and the quality of those referring physicians.
In March 2015, BetterDoctor rolled out a new service that integrates price transparency into its consumer offerings. Using 2014 data made available by Medicare, BetterDoctor can now show consumers how many times each physician performed a particular procedure during the 12-month time frame, and how much Medicare was billed for each procedure.
This, Tulla told nuviun, is
a good indicator of if a doctor is more expensive than another… What we want to convey about the prices is that xyz doctor is 4x more expensive than another.
“Coming from Europe,” Tulla continued, “I’m not sure there’s any other country in the world that’s making this data available.”
You’ll be healthier if you like your doctor
nuviun asked Tulla what advice he’d give to patients looking for a new doctor. His response was refreshingly non-promotional…
The one thing I always say is to think about what you need.
If you are looking for a PCP, you need a person you can relate to, somebody you actually like, and somebody you can see every year for the next 20 years.
When you’re looking for a specialist, think about who you want to see..., who is the right person to help you, in your specific case. Go to sites like ours, or PatientsLikeMe. It always takes a lot of time, but it's time well spent.
You’ll be healthier if you like your doctor.