Cupid for Patients and Doctors

What the medical world needs is a 'matchmaker,' to bring the right doctor to the right patient
Doctors perform a liver transplant, April 7, 2003 (file photo: Flash90)
Doctors perform a liver transplant, April 7, 2003 (file photo: Flash90)

There is a well-known Rabbi in the Jewish world who is known for a list of medical specialists that he personally keeps, which includes doctors who can deal with effectively any type of medical disorder. I personally have heard of people who refer to him as a godsend, having received from him lifesaving advice. In the course of my personal medical career, I have been approached a number of times [nothing even close to the number of requests to this Rabbi] with the question: “I have ”x”, what doctor should I see?”.

I personally never suggest a physician that I have not worked with and come to know on a personal level. I feel it is critical to be able to tell a patient not only about the physician’s technical skills, but also about his bedside manner and heart. For example, there is a young professor of urology at Hadassah, who I had the privilege of working with 24 years ago. Until this day, he is polite, kind and technically very proficient. I would send one of my family members to be treated by him, and of course that means that I would have no qualms about him treating me as well.

One time, I was asked about a complicated ankle injury and I referred the patient to a senior orthopedist about whom I had heard very positive things. I was very careful to state that I did not personally know this orthopedist and therefore could not attest to his personality. These days, I do know a very pleasant orthopedist and I would probably consult with him for the best all around physician to take care of a friend with an orthopedic problem (and of course, the best person could be this orthopedist).

It is absolutely clear that there is a desperate need for a service that would link patients with specific medical conditions, together with doctors with specific expertise in these conditions. In my experience, most patients expressly request a physician who is a “mensch”. Most patients are scared, and know that they will have many questions along the way of their treatment. Therefore, the approachability of the physician is almost as important as the doctor’s technical skills.

It is very hard, still, to find a registry of physicians that includes specific information about the physicians personality. Attempts to score physicians and then have this information posted on a public site, have met with a great deal of resistance. Doctors constantly complain  that such a site would encourage certain patients to write negative comments. These “certain” patients would be ones who had a poor result [not necessarily being the fault of the treating physician], or individuals who themselves had a difficult personality and simply did not mesh with the physician. Nevertheless, such registries do exist and the medical service being reviewed has not collapsed.

Reviews of physicians also appear on certain types of social media sites that are related to healthcare. On these sites, patients can be very detailed and particular about every element of their care. As such, they may readily include comments about the staff, both nursing and physician. The problem here is that this review information needs to be teased out of the free-form text that makes up each social media post. As such, understandably, it is at times very difficult to get specific information about a given physician from such a site.

I think it is fair to say that there is an almost desperate need for a countrywide registry that lists every doctor in that country and has some type of scoring system associated with each individual physician. It is sometimes very hard to get patients to write reviews of the staff, most often because of a fear that the staff will become aware of a complaint and take it out on the patient. In this day and age, with the ability to send a review form via email or phone-based app, even days after the patient has been discharged, the risk of retribution against the patient is probably small. Perhaps, patients could be offered some type of benefit or even a financial reduction in their hospital bill for providing such information. I have no doubt that with a reasonable amount of effort, a mechanism can be constructed for capturing this critical review information.

If in fact every hospital and healthcare service across a given country were to do this, then this data could be made available (even with a charge) to mobile app and desktop computer program writers, and patients could really find a doctor who is appropriate based on location, years of training, area of specialty, number of procedures done, infection rate, patient satisfaction rate, colleague evaluation and more.

These programs could also be designed to accept a detailed description of the patient (or extract it from the patient’s EMR) and then do an automatic search and matching of patient to doctor. The key to all of this is information. Admittedly, no human generated data is perfect. But this system would be much better than nothing.

It is said that after the universe’s creation, G-d has kept busy finding marital matches between men and women. With all due respect to whichever divinity you follow, I think that linking patients to doctors is no less important and could very well benefit from Divine Intervention.

Thanks for listening

My website is at

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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