Should We Rate Doctors And Shrinks Like We Rate Uber Drivers And Restaurants?
A mental health advocate believes Australia's mental health crisis could be aided if we looked to an Uber-style review system, by encouraging Aussies to also rate their therapists.
When Mitch Wallis first sought mental health to manage his anxiety, depression and OCD, he said he was often let down.
"I went to my GP and asked for a psychologist and she literally went down a list and was like 'they are good, they are good' and printed me out 15 sheets and said 'try some of these out'," Wallis told 10 daily.
He said he tried eight different psychologists, over several years, before finding one that could help him. He almost gave up on asking for help.
"I thought, this isn't a very intelligent matching service given how much technology we have available," he said.
With almost 25,000 registered psychologists and more than 3200 psychiatrists, Wallis says there needs to be a better way of finding the right fit -- and he is working on a solution.
Mental illness costs the economy $60 billion a year, and yet less than half of Australians suffering are actually accessing treatment, while half of people who do get mental health care plans do no use them.
"We need to lean on peer-on-peer reviews because most of the time, we are looking for a connection, not necessarily a cure. I believe a connection and feeling understood is a large part of the outcome we should get to," he said.
Wallis is partnering with a large tech company to launch his peer review mental health website later this year.
However the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says the current model is the safest and best bet.
“Your GP is best placed to give you the right advice on the most appropriate specialist treatment. They can look at your medical history and make sure that any allergies, medications, and test results are passed on to the specialist," an AMA spokesperson told 10 daily.
In the United States, health professionals are adapting to an (at times) harsh reality where clients rate them on sites like Yelp and RateMDs, mirroring the way restaurants, hotels and drivers are reviewed.
While there are some Australian practitioners captured on these websites, they are largely overseas-based.
"By giving star ratings and a certain word-minimum of exactly why you have rated this way, it will help give credibility and context," Wallis said
You don't have to be a driver to know what a good experience of an Uber is.
The Australian Psychological Society's (APS) website has a navigation tool to help Aussies find a practitioner.
"You will find information about the different types of psychologists, the range of areas they work in [it’s not just mental health], why you should choose an APS psychologist and how to access a qualified psychologist in your area using the APS Find a Psychologist Service," a spokesperson for APS told 10 daily.
But Wallis said it doesn't go far enough.
"The industry is guilty of just filtering on postcodes... what peer support offers to compliment medical support, is those indicators that connect with us like gender, age, ethnicity and cultural experience."
Jonathan King is a medical doctor and CEO of Lysn -- an online platform that provides patients with one-on-one video chat appointments with more than 550 psychologists across Australia.
He agrees that there needs to be an alternative to the GP-referral system.
"While we fight as advocates to reduce stigma and allow people to seek help, we put a barrier of going through your GP to get coverage. Clearly, the fact that mental health isn’t improving and is increasing across our society and community, means that our current system is not optimal," he told 10 daily.
However, he is wary of the the potential dark side of anonymous reviews.
"Having reviews that reflect emotions after a difficult therapy session can not only damage the client's relationship with their psychologist, but also damage potential clients [by deterring them] from seeking help," he said.
There are also potential legal ramifications for reviewers -- in what a lawyer has described as a "groundbreaking" case on Friday, the federal court has sided with a Melbourne dentist, ordering Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous user who left him a bad review so he can launch legal action.
King is concerned about the damage false or knee-jerk reviews can make, although he is supportive of bad practitioners being held accountable.
"I do think there is a responsibility for the community, organisations and governing bodies to make sure they either remove them from their service, or further train them to improve their clinical skills," he said.
To mitigate the risks of health care workers being the targets of slanderous, exaggerated or fake reviews, one Canadian study found that making a detailed explanation mandatory often makes people less likely to be negative.
Marketing professor Sarah Moore's research found that users who explained their positive consumer experiences actually ended up scoring them lower than reviewers who who didn't explain -- while reviewers who explained their bad experiences ended up scoring them higher.
“‘Explaining why a chocolate cupcake tasted so divine makes us love the cupcake a little less,” Moore said, "while explaining why a movie was so horrible makes us hate the movie a little less.”
The AMA said there are already ratings websites for medical professionals in Australia.
"However, websites are generally not a useful tool for assessing the best specialist for a patient’s needs. Your best bet is to talk to your GP.”
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about anxiety, depression and mental health contact beyond blue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
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