Physicians and patients have different views of online ratings

It’s thumbs down from doctors and thumbs up from patients when it comes to physician rating websites.

Online physician ratings can stress out doctors, but empower patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study found that doctors and patients have different views on whether independent or health system physician rating websites are the more reliable source of information, and they disagree about whether the data should be shared on public websites.

Researchers surveyed 828 physicians affiliated with one of four hospitals in a large accountable-care organization in Massachusetts, as well as 494 patients who received care in the system in May 2015 to assess their views of online ratings sites.

One in every two doctors (53%) said that they had read online reviews about themselves, while two in every five patients (39%) used the web to look up comments about their doctors, according to a study announcement. Doctors trusted the information on health system websites that report data from their internal patient experience surveys, while patients preferred independent websites hosted by private companies, such as

"Patients may lack trust in health system websites due to concerns regarding bias, as these publish reviews regarding their own physicians," lead author Alison M. Holliday of Harvard Medical School said in the announcement.

The study also found that online ratings and comments can stress out doctors. The majority (78%) noted that the possibility of negative online comments increases their job stress and 46% thought the practice could harm physician-patient relationships.

More hospitals are posting ratings for their physicians online and at the same time, physicians are increasingly seeing comments posted on ratings sites and on social media. As more patients use online reviews to choose their providers, doctors face limited options for dealing effectively with poor reviews of their practices. But the biggest mistake doctors make when they discover that unhappy patients have posted negative or inaccurate comments about them is not responding to the bad reviews.