Docs increasingly monitoring online reviews

Cognizant that online reviews increasingly are swaying patient decisions about medical care, more and more doctors are monitoring such reviews about themselves, according to the results of a new physician survey.

Of 360 healthcare providers who responded to the survey, conducted by online appointment booking site ZocDoc, 85 percent said they keep an eye on what is said about them online. What's more, 36 percent of respondents said they also keep track of what is said about their competitors.

The survey also asked physicians about their social media use, with 53 percent saying that have a Facebook account to represent their practice. Thirty-four percent of respondents said they use Google+, while 28 percent said they use LinkedIn and 21 percent said they are active on Twitter.

Thirty percent of respondents, though, said they were not active at all on social media.

While a majority of doctors surveyed earlier this year by the American College of Physician Executives said they were "frustrated" with consumer online ratings, many also admitted to still checking them out.

For that survey, which garnered 730 responses from members, most respondents said online ratings sites were "invalid measurements of competency" that contain sampling biases. What's more, on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 representing the most value, most respondents said the average value of such sites is a hair over 3.

For the ZocDoc survey, 85 percent of respondents labeled online reviews as "fair" (62 percent) or "very fair" (23 percent); 15 percent said that such reviews are not fair.

In January, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled an online patient review was not defamatory. That decision ended a four-year legal battle stemming from a defamation lawsuit by neurologist David McKee. Following the hospitalization of a patient at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth, the patient's son wrote reviews on several sites, with one claiming a nurse called the doctor "a real tool."

Research published last December determined that while negative online reviews can harm a physician's reputation, the rating sites are themselves deficient as they often contain too few reviews to be meaningful and can be manipulated by encouraging patients to post reviews before leaving the office, which are less likely to be negative.

To learn more:
- read the announcement