The union representing New Zealand doctors has labeled a new website which allows members of the pubic to rate doctors as setting a "dubious precedent" which does not guarantee "greater transparency or improved quality of care".
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) has release a statement objecting to a the new website Whitecoat, supported by a health insurance company, as raising "serious concerns about fair treatment of doctors".
The New Zealand launch of the whitecoat.co.nz website, already active in Australia as a digital health care directory, will allow patients to rate their doctor across several categories and to comment on their overall impressions.
"What happens if a doctor initiates child protection proceedings because they are concerned about a child's well-being, and one of the parents involved subsequently rates the doctor poorly or posts negative comments?" executive director of ASMA Ian Powell said.
"There are circumstances in which comments posted on the website could post an actual danger to the doctor's safety, for example when doctors perform abortions or carry out other treatment or procedures that some individuals or groups find contentious."
The Whitecoat website lists thousands of healthcare providers.
Mr Powell says ASMS has strong concerns about the backing of health insurance companies with their own vested interests for the whitecoat website.
"It's also important to make the point that popularity and charm in a health professional does not automatically mean a higher standard of clinical practice or better outcomes of care – for example, Dr Harold Shipman was loved by his patients!" Mr Powell said.
"Patient care is more complex than this. Patients in New Zealand’s public health system do not have the luxury of choice with regard to their treatment provider, and it is irresponsible to suggest that they do.
"They are not choosing between different types of vacuum cleaners; they need compassionate, qualified expert medical care, not the latest brand. And that type of treatment is usually delivered by teams of health professionals, rather than a single doctor.
"Patients are not consumers, and doctors are not commodities."