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Paging Doctor Oogle

Patient Driven Referral Sites [PDRSs]

By Dr. Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS

By Staff Writers

It is clear to some practitioners that Internet-based consumerism is the future of medicine; as well as dentistry. 

Regardless of the increasing number of complaints about managed care’s malevolent business model, managed care medical and dental plans are already wilting under the heat of transparency as well as the stifling economy. Market share continues to fall because of Adam Smith-like competition. 

These days, consumers are talking like a small town. Dentistry is no exception in the healthcare space. 

Enter Doctor Oogle

Doctor Oogle is a web 2.0 platform, built on a social architecture of national participation where patients post comments and opine about participating providers; nice or nasty. According to the site, it also offers a public database of dentists with patient feedback about dental practitioners. One can also read reviews, ratings, and recommendations; select a practitioner or schedule an appointment.

Ad-Driven Contrast of PDRSs

In contrast to WebMD, Servicegrades.com or other Patient-Driven Referral Sites (PDRS), which sell dentists ad space, DR. Oogle is completely uninfluenced by paid advertisements because there are none.  Participating dentists pay a flat monthly fee.

Defining Dental Quality 

If we can agree that in dentistry [perhaps more than medicine] patient satisfaction is an important measurement of quality care, DR. Oogle is a natural measuring tool just begging to be used by patients holding preferred provider lists.  In addition, DR. Oogle has the largest database of patient ratings of any other PDRS.

Dollar-Based Dental Benefits 

As businesses pull-back from expensive dental and medical insurance, some providers encourage owners to replace it with a fair and simple dollar-based benefit system; like Direct Reimbursement [DR] instead of intentionally confusing procedure-based benefits. This is akin to a concierge medical practice.

And, dentistry may be more susceptible to consumer influences, than whole-body medicine for a variety of reasons; for example:

  • costs of dental treatment are a small fraction of hospitalization,
  • emergencies are not generally life threatening, even if painful, and,
  • patients readily recognize bad dentistry [sometimes even as it is being performed].

Welcomed Transparency

Some dentists – and doctors – opine that managed care dentistry [medicine] is simply dentistry [medicine] provided by the lowest bidder – with little to no quality control – an unethical/specious business foundation that ultimately leads to the abandonment of patients’ interests.  Of course, this is not a new hue and cry against managed care precepts. 

DIY Studies

And so, in a recently received, and anonymous, do-it-yourself DR. Oogle study; one researcher was shocked at how much the listed dentists were disliked by their customers [patients]. Of course, there are statistical wrinkles: 

  • Maybe these lower rated dentists are not as bad as the reviews describe.
  • Is it possible that a few vocal people who expect discounts are impossible to satisfy?
  • How fair is that to a young dentist – just trying to scrape by anyway possible?
  • What dentist can maintain professionalism indefinitely in the financially thank-less environment of managed care? 
  • What about the future? 

Even if a preferred provider goes bankrupt trying to maintain professional standards, he or she remains sadly unappreciated.  Discount dentistry [medicine] comes at a tremendous price.


Collaborative healthcare 2.0 is the philosophy where patients, providers, and payers interact collaboratively and competitively in order to enhance quality medical services at value-driven prices in the most appropriate venue and time.

Dr. Oogle is an imperfect tool that in many respects seeks to further this goal.

Nevertheless, although metering tools will undoubtedly improve going forward, caring and competent dental professionals need not fear them. All others beware of patient empowerment and transparency.  


You thoughts and opinions are appreciated. Please comment on Dr. Oogle and/or related doctor evaluation methods. [PDRSs].  Or, discourse on the increasingly transparent healthcare ecosystem in general.

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6 Responses

  1. Patient Driven Referral Services
    By Darrell Pruitt DDS

    In a small community people as a general rule know a lot more about their neighbors than do people in a city. They also know a lot more about the doctors and dentists in town since there are only a few. It is fairly common to talk to neighbors and friends to get opinions on who is the best dentist, who to avoid, who is the cheapest, who has the most up to date equipment….

    In a small community, as well as in a city, even a neighbor’s recommendation carries more weight than a dentist’s paid advertisement. I would imagine that sales of 1 800 Dentist subscriptions are significantly lower in rural Texas than in the metropolitan areas on a per capita basis. The dentists in small communities know that they are far too easy to find to need to spend money for a referral service or for much advertisement at all.

    Well, Fort Worth and cities across the nation are becoming smaller dental communities because of the internet. If any of you have googled your name, you may have picked up a hit by one or more patient driven referral services (PDRS). And if you have not done this lately, you should. There is a good possibility that the information about your practice location may contain errors. But more importantly, you may read something pleasingly flattering or terribly humbling about your practice written by a patient you saw last week.

    Dr. Oogle is presently the most popular PDRS. A patient’s comments about his or her dentist is posted only after the patient accepts the terms of the agreement; which are that the patient is neither a relative nor an employee of the dentist and that the patient is not otherwise being compensated for the review. The website also requires an authentic e-mail address and other personal information for verification purposes.

    There is a filtering system in place in which employees of Dr. Oogle reject (at their discretion) comments which are too good or too bad to be credible. And there are other ways in which dentists can handle bad reviews and are described on their website. And there is, I suppose, always room for an attorney or two if the other attempts at removing a bad review fail.

    But if the PDRS’s survive the lawsuits, and if the first review which comes up under your name happens to be a real stinker written by an easily disgruntled and fervently vindictive patient (I think his name is Fred. You probably know him as he changes dentists often), and if you cannot get it otherwise removed, perhaps you should bury it under as many good reviews as you can encourage your patients to submit. This reaction, not surprisingly, is the reaction recommended by Dr. Oogle. In fact, they also recommend that we routinely ask our patients to submit reviews to them. I imagine that there are already dentists who have had cards printed for this purpose.

    Like it or not, our patients are being given more power in the marketing of our practices and their influence is growing. Dr. Oogle’s first reviews of dentists in the greater Ft. Worth area occurred in September of ’04. By the first of February, 5½ months later, there were only 18 dentists who had been reviewed by at least one patient. As of today, one month later (March 7), there are 16 more. By the time this is published the number could be close to 50. Who knows how many reviews will be posted a year from now if the public perceives value in this kind of information. Many more of us will be listed as either good or bad dentists; legitimately or not.

    Regardless of the outcome of Dr. Oogle’s venture into dentistry, the fact that the public has a thirst for “unbiased” sources of information concerning our practices tells us that more than ever before we have to treat each patient as our most important source of new business or a disappointed patient could soon become a significant obstacle for growth. Another good thing is that a patient who has to choose a dentist from a list at least soon may have some guidance; other than the fact that his insurance company thinks they are all equally swell.

    Source: Twelfth Night newsletter of the Fort Worth District Dental Society, April 2005


  2. PDRS Styled Sites:

    For those inclined, please take a look at these PDRS styled sites:



  3. Like it or not, DR.Oogle empowers

    A few weeks ago, Stewart Gandolf posted “Social media empowers consumers – including your patients” on his blog, Gandolf’s Marketing Magic.

    Gandolf defines modern branding in dentistry when he concedes, “Consumers are now empowered, and some are getting aggressive.”


    I told Gandolf if one plays to win, losing becomes increasingly less likely.

    I’ve mentioned that I depend on DR.Oogle (doctoroogle.com) for a steady supply of new patients. It’s the most cost-effective marketing I’ve ever purchased. When I became active in September 2005, there was hardly any competition. I’m glad I got an early start.

    If a dentist has the confidence to ask patients to refer friends and family, it’s only another small step to ask them to put in a good word on the Internet. I suggest that following a pleasant appointment, ask the satisfied customer to put in a good word on the Website of your choice while handwriting the address on a business card. Let the customer know that their opinion is precious enough to go out of your way – to ask them to go out of their way.

    Web 2.0 marketing platforms like DR.Oogle become increasingly effective as patient satisfaction data accumulate and more consumers (and competitors) discover the power of numbers. Here’s something that should appeal to any dentist: New patients are sold on my abilities before they walk in the door. Now that’s beautiful. In addition, my staff and I try extra hard to please all our patients. It became habit.

    Empowered consumers on computers are more critical for healthcare reform than empowered preferred provider lists. Besides, empowered consumers are here to stay. Delta Dental only acts like it.

    One more thing: It’s sort of a favor. If you know a Fort Worth dentist, please don’t mention what I said about DR.Oogle…. and you can tell Delta Dental to bite me.

    D. Kellus Pruitt; DDS


  4. Dr. Pruitt,

    I’m not sure about dentistry, but some large medical practices and hospitals have entire teams that monitor the social media spectrum for their mentions, using monitoring services like Meltwater, Radian6, Overtone, Vocus, Moreover, and Google for 24/7 alerts.

    Shoud be the same for the DDS, too.



  5. Thanks, Thomas.

    There are thousands of Internet marketing gurus who over-sell lame skills in Search Engine Optimization. I’m certain at least one of the consultants whom I’ve bumped heads with will find acute fault with my opinion of the importance of Internet buzz to dental practices. Hopefully he will respond.

    I assume almost everyone in business agrees that it has always been important to monitor one’s image – even before the Internet made marketplace discussion increasingly more accessible to all – including the dreaded dissatisfied, vocal customers. However, for a dentist to monitor the Internet for good and bad news, it hardly requires a “team.” I’m not familiar with the monitoring services you mentioned, but I find that a Google Alert for “Darrell K. Pruitt DDS,” is all that I need.

    Actually, it’s my opinion that the very low level of Internet noise about my practice is similar to almost all dental practices, and is far too little to even measure. Let’s face it – dentistry is void of popularity for natural reasons related to good taste and “other things to think about thank you.”

    Furthermore, if we perform our jobs successfully, our patients hardly ever think about their teeth and gums except after meals and before going to bed. And that’s as exciting as success gets. Maybe that’s all we can ask for.

    Perhaps paid advice to repeatedly post numerous keywords on a given dentist’s Websites actually makes the person look like either a dental marketing consultant’s foolish mark or a severely vocabulary-impaired writer.



  6. Dr. Oogle,

    Here is what I find most appealing about the dental patients I attract through doctoroogle.com: Having already read compliments from my satisfied patients (the nicest people in the world), newcomers trust me before we ever meet.

    No amount of money paid to Yellow Pages or 1-800-Dentist can purchase that level of devotion. As a matter of fact, for dentists whose names are picked from preferred provider lists, dental patients can hardly trust them based on the reputation of managed care dentistry.


    Darrell K. Pruitt DDS


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