Online physician ratings are influencing parents
Many American parents are turning to the Internet and online physician ratings to help them choose a pediatrician, according to a new national study.
The study, published in the Sept. 22 online edition of Pediatrics, found that nearly 75 percent of the more than 1,600 parents polled knew about physician rating sites, and 28 percent said they had used one to choose a pediatrician.
The report also found that participants were twice as likely to follow a neighbor’s recommendation to choose a particular pediatrician if that doctor also had high rankings online – compared with no online information.
Though in a case of bad online ratings, participants said they were significantly less likely to choose that pediatrician. Only three percent of parents would choose a doctor recommended by a family member or friend who had poor online reviews.
“We are definitely seeing a shift in the way that consumers approach health care,” said Dr. Allison Klotzbuecher, 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 are here to stay. Concerns about such sites remain – such as the validity or representativeness of the results – but healthcare consumers have few other choices to turn to when trying to find information about what doctor to choose.”
However, the researchers also point out that choosing a pediatrician is more complex than choosing a place to have dinner, so online reviews should be just part of the process of finding a doctor.
Dr. Klotzbuecher agrees, adding, “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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