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Angie's List starts rating health care

March 24, 2008
Angie's List quietly launched its health care ratings service on March 14 and will begin promoting it today.

The Indianapolis company, which typically rates home repair services, will host an afternoon press conference about its foray into health care. It plans to send out an e-mail to its 600,000 customers as early as today.

The new service will rate doctors, dentists, pharmacies, hospitals and even health insurers. Consumers can rate 50 categories of health care organizations.

Angie's List customers won't have to pay extra for the new service, which the company is rolling out to all 124 major cities it serves. In Indianapolis, an Angie's List subscription costs $59 a year, plus a $15 one-time sign up fee. The service allows subscribers to read reports and assign ratings to providers of 280 kinds of services.

Company founder Angie Hicks said 76 percent of Angie's List customers have said they want a ratings service for health care providers.

"Consumers want and deserve to have a trustworthy source to find the health care service providers that best fit their specific priorities," Hicks said in a statement.

Company officials did not disclose how much they invested to start the health care service.

Angie's List hasn't hired extra people to help run the service, and it has no medical experts on staff. But company officials took more than 15 months to research and prepare to launch the service. IBJ first reported in January 2007 that the company planned the foray into health care.

Angie's List customers will be able to grade health care firms on an A-F scale in the same categories that they grade plumbers: price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism.

However, questions Angie's List will ask its customers will be different for health care firms. Examples include: Was the office staff helpful and courteous? Did the physician explain things in a way that you could understand? Did you feel you could make your concerns understood to the physician? What did you like most/least about this physician?

Attempts to rate doctors' performance are proliferating as insurers push them to improve quality and cut costs. Also, the recent popularity of so-called consumer-driven health plans has heightened demands for information about health care providers.

Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc. partnered with Zagat Survey LLC in October to rate doctors on trust, communication, availability and environment. Over the next couple of years, WellPoint will make the service available to all of its 35 million health insurance customers.

At the time, Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle took issue with WellPoint for not inviting his company to bid on its project.

"It's sad to me that we never heard anything from WellPoint even though we sit in the same city," Oesterle told IBJ. "If we're going to have a good entrepreneurial environment [in Indiana], we're going to have to have our traditional large companies looking to local suppliers for services like this."

WellPoint officials responded that the company has a 60-year history of doing business with local firms.

Doctor ratings on the Web run the gamut from highly analytical to free-for-all commentary.

On one end, Camas, Wash.-based MDNationwide Inc. uses computer analysis to assign each doctor a numerical rating in such categories as experience, professional reputation, disciplinary history, malpractice judgments, education and board certifications.

On another extreme, RateMDs.com is a message-board-style Web site that allows anyone to make comments about his or her doctor. Comments posted about Indianapolis doctors range from effusive praise to "HE IS NOT WORTH THE SALT HE PUTS ON HIS MEALS."

In the middle is Colorado-based Health Grades Inc. The company has customers in every state. It rates every non-federal hospital in the country and offers background reports on every practicing physician.
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