Physician online reviews here to stay

For better or worse, online ratings are a more prevalent factor in how patients choose doctors, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers found that of the 2,100 Americans surveyed:

  • Two-thirds of respondents knew that doctor-rating sites exist;

  • One-quarter of respondents used the sites in the past year;

  • Nineteen percent of respondents said a physician's rating on a reporting website was a "very important" factor in their choice;

  • Forty percent said it was "somewhat important";

  • Thirty-five percent of site users picked a doctor because of a good rating; and

  • Thirty-seven percent avoided a doctor with a poor rating.

Despite the clear uptick in rating-site awareness and influence, it's less certain whether this trend is good or bad, according to lead researcher David Hanauer, M.D., of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.

Part of the problem is that it's unclear what metrics the online sites use, Hanauer told MedPage Today. "In fact, visit several rating sites and you can see that they often measure different things, or the same thing in different ways," he said. "We still don't really have a good sense of how accurate or trustworthy the physician rating sites are." For example, previous research shows that low numbers of reviews can skew ratings.

Nonetheless, "the next generation of healthcare consumers is going to be using online resources," Ritu Agarwal, who directs the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems at the University of Maryland in College Park, told HealthDay.

"As such, it may be time for physicians to think about how to participate in developing reliable ratings," Hanauer told MedPage.

To learn more:
- read the HealthDay article
- check out the MedPage Today post 
- here's the JAMA study abstract