How much do online physician ratings matter?
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found 59 percent of people said those physician-rating sites were at least “somewhat important” when choosing a doctor. Sixty-five percent of respondents were aware of online physician ratings and about one-quarter reported using these sites.
The report also found an increase in the number of physicians rated online from 2005 to 2010, as well as the number of ratings per physician. Among those respondents who sought out online physician ratings in the past year, 35 percent reported selecting a physician based on good ratings and 37 percent reported voiding a physician with bad ratings.
“We are definitely seeing a shift in the way that consumers approach health care,” said Dr. Allison Benthal, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Libertyville, Ill. “People are getting used to searching the Internet for all other products and services, so it’s not surprising to see this happening with health care.”
The authors of the study concluded that “rating sites that treat reviews of physicians like reviews of movies or mechanics may be useful to the public, but the implications should be considered because the stakes are higher.” The authors also pointed out factors such as office location, whether or not a physician “accepts my insurance” and word of mouth rated higher (“very important”) than physician’s ratings on websites.
Dr. Benthal adds, “I think it’s probably best to take online physician reviews with a grain of salt. There seems to be a lack of standardization among the review sites, in terms of criteria. It’s important that potential patients meet with a physician first—visit their office, sit down with them—and assess that way, rather than going to the Internet and letting online reviews be their guide.”
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