Busy doctors may have lower online patient ratings

Study finds doctors with a high patient volume have lower patient ratings on online sites. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Doctors who see more patients tend to have lower online patient ratings, a new study found.

That is likely the result of longer wait times and less time spent with patients, a study in JAMA Surgery found.

The study reviewed 2014 Medicare billing data and online reviews for 665 urologists in California and found those with higher patient volume tended to have lower ratings based on four popular ratings sites: RateMDs, Healthgrades, Vitals and Yelp.

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While online reviews are an increasingly popular tool for patients to evaluate and choose physicians, the latest study adds to the research that calls into question their usefulness in judging a doctor’s clinical ability.

Higher online patient ratings were associated with urologists who saw fewer patients, but the authors said more research is needed to understand the factors that lead to more satisfied patients.

Physicians who billed for more services also tended to have lower ratings on the ratings sites and academic physicians tended to have higher ratings than those in private practice.

The mean total number of reviews on the four web sites was 10 for physicians—which points to a problem with those ratings. The websites contain so few online reviews that they are meaningless, a separate JAMA study last year found.

Nearly 60% of patients believe online reviews are important when choosing a physician. Yet, that study found those commercial physician-rating websites are pretty useless in judging a doctor’s patient care.

Another study found the reviews can be a poor indicator of clinical performance. Online ratings of specialist physicians failed to predict their actual performance on measures of quality, value and peer review.

However, doctors make a big mistake when they discover that unhappy patients have posted negative or inaccurate comments about them and do not respond, as FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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