Monday, March 06, 2006

Web Sites Let Patients Customize Search for Doctors

Web Sites Let Patients Customize Search for Doctors

January 31, 2006

A growing number of Web sites are helping patients find health care providers who meet certain criteria, including race, religion and "sensitivity to sexual orientation," the Washington Post reports.

Studies have shown that some patients relate better to physicians of the same race, according to the Post. Many black patients have said they participate more in medical decisions and have a higher level of trust and satisfaction with black doctors than with white doctors. Web sites such as, and allow patients to search profiles of thousands of physicians to find a suitable provider.

"If this can encourage more people to first go to the doctor (and) have the tests that they need done, then we've done something good," Salli Purnell, marketing director for, said.

The Christian Medical & Dental Association's Web site allows users to search the profiles of 17,000 doctors. The database, created in response to requests from patients seeking "Christian referrals," receives 65,000 hits per month, according to David Stevens, executive director of the CMDA.

In addition, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's database contains the profiles of most of the group's members. It was created to help patients find a doctor with whom they can feel comfortable discussing their sexual orientation, according to Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the group. He added, "Being out to your health care providers is important to ensure that you receive proper health care," such as tests and screenings tailored to a patient's sexual habits.


Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers, said, "I think it's understandable given concerns about cultural sensitivity [that] people may feel more comfortable with a doctor if they look like them or think like them." However, he added that patients should consider other factors when selecting a doctor. "If you're just searching one characteristic, which only has to do with what they believe or who they are, I think that's not a very good way to choose a physician," Levin said.

According to the Post, the Web sites "offer no help in verifying the practitioner's credentials or assessing quality of care." For example, warns users to "check and verify the credentials of any alleged health care provider before consenting to any and all courses of treatment" (Payne, Washington Post, 1/31).


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