Hold the reviews, please


You know those reviews on sites like Amazon that complain about a product, bemoan its poor quality and denounce its lack of performance after owning said product for only a few days? They drive me crazy and I bet they annoy you too.

Those knee-jerk reaction-type reviews inaccurately skew the product's overall ratings. And quite frankly, short of a system malfunction or a product that arrives broken, you can't know whether something works in a matter of a few days or even weeks.

Those negative Amazon reviews remind me of the public chatter about the healthcare reform law and the poor performance of the health insurance exchanges, in particular. Don't worry, I'm not going to praise the Obama administration for its valiant performance in rolling out the online marketplaces. (That would make me blind.) But I'm also not going to lambast it for launching a terrible website either. (That would make me impulsive.)

We simply haven't had enough time to fully determine whether the exchanges will be successful and ultimately become a smoothly operating marketplace.

When I'm researching a product to purchase, like the digital SLR camera I bought a few weeks ago, I sift through reviews on shopping sites like Amazon. I read positive and negative reviews, carefully scrutinizing them for comments posted shortly after purchase or that paint a broad picture of poor performance based one isolated experience.

When I come upon said comments, I dismiss them for inaccuracy. And here's a bigger issue--these negative reviews could have an underpinning of truth to them. But since the consumers rashly posted their opinions based on minimum experience with a product, I can't take their comments seriously and miss out on some potentially valuable insights about a product I'm interested in purchasing.

If only the consumers had gathered information and assessed any potential fixes and wrote a thoughtful review, other consumers would take their opinions seriously and use them to make similar decisions.

What's more, these knee-jerk reactions often obscure other glimmers of positivity. In the case of exchanges, news reports highlighting the myriad problems with (and we all know there are many) have overshadowed the successes like signing up almost 1.5 million people to Medicaid programs in only one month.

If was a product I bought on Amazon two months ago, I wouldn't be writing a review just yet. Instead, I would be working with the customer service department to see if I could fix any of the kinks. I might be taking note of the failures so I can share them with fellow Amazon shoppers for the eventual review I would write. But I wouldn't recklessly jump to conclusions and send those rash judgments out into the ether for all to see.

The public would be better served if politicians, industry experts and analysts stopped penning criticisms of after only a few weeks of operation and instead analyzed and critiqued it over, say, the entire enrollment period. They should be following the exchange roll out closely, taking care to highlight any significant successes and failures, alike, so they can write an informed, detailed review in the future.

Even more importantly, industry leaders and pundits would better help the public by working to educate consumers about the application process for and provide subsidy information so they know whether they're eligible. That's a real solution needed now. Let's save the reviews for the future. - Dina (@HealthPayer)