The North Shore-LIJ Health System has begun posting patient satisfaction ratings for its outpatient doctors online, the first major health system in the area to do so, North Shore-LIJ officials said Thursday.

The one- to five-star ratings, compiled over 18 months based on surveys collected by an outside vendor, are available for more than 760 out of about 900 doctors in North Shore-LIJ medical practices, mostly in outpatient offices outside the health system's 21 hospitals.

They don't include doctors who provide patient care only in the hospital or specialists who don't have an in-depth patient interaction. (Patient satisfaction surveys for each hospital that include questions about doctors' care are published by the federal government.) Nor do they include doctors with fewer than 30 surveys.

Dr. Ira Nash, a cardiologist and senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, said he got the idea for the ratings at a conference several years ago when the University of Utah Health Care -- the first to publish such ratings online -- gave a talk on its experience.

"I thought it was a fabulous idea," he said. "I thought it could become kind of a signature initiative to help distinguish us and elevate the importance of the patient experience."

And, he said, the ratings -- unlike those that can be posted on some physician ratings websites -- are based on an actual, verified patient's experience.

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Patient advocates praised North Shore-LIJ, which is joining a handful of other health systems, including Stanford Health Care, Cleveland Clinic and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, that have also started posting ratings.

"I am so glad North Shore is holding physicians accountable," said Ilene Corina, president of the nonprofit patient safety group PULSE of NY in Wantagh. "I hope people use it and they share the good and the bad and take time to fill out the form."

Arthur Levin, director of the nonprofit Manhattan-based Center for Medical Consumers, said, "The principle is great." But he cautioned, "This is one of many factors in making a choice about a doctor. You wouldn't want to make a choice just based on a patient satisfaction survey."

Nash and the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group worked with Press Ganey, a South Bend, Indiana, firm that deals with health care organizations worldwide.

The ratings and comments, available on the system's website, are compiled from more than 500,000 surveys that ask patients 10 questions about their dealings with the doctor. They include how courteous the doctor was, how clearly he or she explained information about medications and the patient's confidence in the doctor.


Doctors cannot opt out, Nash said. But, he said, they would not publish ratings for a doctor with fewer than 30 surveys. "We want to make sure we have a certain sample size," he said.

And, he said, they would not include comments that violated a patient's privacy, threatened legal action or contained a personal attack.

Dr. Jean Cacciabaudo, chief of cardiology at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and chairwoman of the medical group's patient experience committee, said the ratings would be updated every two weeks.

Cacciabaudo said she was initially skeptical of the idea. But, she said, as the ratings were shared internally, she saw doctors' behavior change -- including her own.

"Doctors are competitive," she said. "We all strive to be the best."

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She added: "We are opening ourselves to our patients. It's a more honest relationship. It's a two-way street, and that's the way it should be."