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„We Need to Prevent Conditions like those on American Idol”

„We Need to Prevent Conditions like those on American Idol”

Helga Kühn-Mengel spoke to Helga Kühn-Mengel, German patients’ mandatory, about the rating portal and how it differs from websites like, where teachers can be evaluated. Mrs. Kühn-Mengel, there are a lot of websites where patients can evaluate their doctors. Have you already used such sites?

Helga Kühn-Mengel: I know some of these websites, but I have not used them to evaluate my own doctors because they are not serious. Everybody can vote several times, positive or negative. And that is why such internet portals are fragile for manipulation. The AOK plans also an internet portal to the turn of the year, where insured persons can mark their doctors. As patients’ mandatory, why did you comment these plans positive?

Kühn-Mengel: The planned site should distinguish from other portals. The insurance has about 24 million members. This database makes such a site more representative than other little sites. But this alone does not reach to be seriously. The evaluation criteria must base on a list of questions, which was developed by scientists. Under these requirements such a portal can make sense and offer a good navigation for searching the right specialist. But at the beginning you said that the internet is easy to manipulate. Do you share the fear of critics, who say, that such a site could lead to a ranking of doctors with character of a chart show?

Kühn-Mengel: The portal needs in deed barriers that this cannot happen. The AOK has to make sure for example, that every insured person can vote only once. We have to prevent manipulation possibilities which exist for example on American Idol, where everyone can vote ten or 20 times for one candidate. And the valuations have to publish at first, if enough are available for each doctor. Scientists must define how many valuations must be necessary for that. By the way, studies prove that the orientation for patients is a lack in our health care system. What does that mean?

Kühn-Mengel: Patients with chronic diseases in English speaking countries and Germany were asked about their satisfaction with health care quality in the commonwealth study two years ago. Many of them felt uninformed not enough. 60 percent said that they were not educated about alternative treatments, 46 percent were not informed about the aims of the treatment and 38 percent received no information about side effects of their medication. If such experiences with doctors are published, for example in the internet, this can be an advantage for other patients.


Photo: Physician with a patient Do you think that patients are able to judge about doctors?

Kühn-Mengel: Of course I think so. They can say if the surgery is well organized, if the specialist explains diagnoses understandable or if the doctor includes the patient in the treatment process. Through such a portal doctors should not be discriminated. However, the subjective experience with a doctor can be helpful for other patients. Teachers and professors can be judged over the internet yet long ago. Many of them are afraid of discrimination. Doctors think that this could happen to them too. Do you understand that?

Kühn-Mengel: No, because the website of the AOK should be evaluated from scientists. That makes the site not comparable with sites like In such registers everybody can write down his opinion without censorship. For many teachers this can be unpleasant. However, if a patient can judge about the quality of a surgery and has to answer fixed questions, this can be positive for other patients, but also for the doctors themselves. What is the advantage for the doctor?

Kühn-Mengel: When patients assign good marks to their doctors, this can work like advertising. Maybe there are people, who come to a doctor in consequence a positive result of the website. Other health insurances also reacted positive of the planned “doctor-navigator”. And in hospitals it is normal, that patients are asked about their satisfaction with medical staff. Do you think that the patients’ voice will get more attention in the German healthcare system in future?

Kühn-Mengel: Yes, but not only in medical care. Nursing homes can be evaluated since recently too. This leads to more competition and transparency.

The interview was conducted by Simone Heimann.

And what do doubters say about such a website?

Read more about this in an interview on with Rudolf Henke, chairman of the German Doctor’s Union called Marburger Bund. Click here for the interview!


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