Use Of Online Doctor Ratings On The Rise
February 20, 2014

One In Four Americans Use Online Review Websites When Doctor Shopping

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Public awareness of websites that review physicians is on the rise, as a recent survey found that 65 percent of Americans were aware of online medical service provider rankings, according to research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The poll, which was conducted by Dr. David A. Hanauer of the University of Michigan Medical School and colleagues, also found that 36 percent of those individuals (representing approximately one-fourth of all individuals polled) reported using these websites.

“Online rating sites have gained popularity, and it’s common for people to use them to look up reviews on things like cars, movies or restaurants,” Hanauer said in a statement. “More recently, doctors have become the subject of ratings. And this research shows that awareness is growing about those online doctor ratings.”

The survey was conducted in September 2012 and involved asking a nationally representative sample of the US population about their knowledge and use of online ratings for selecting physicians. Twenty-one percent were 18 to 29 years of age, 17 percent were 30 to 39 years of age, 18 percent were 40 to 49 years of age, 19 percent were 50 to 59 years of age, and 26 percent were over 60 years or age, the researchers noted.

Forty percent of those who responded said that physician rating sites were “very important” when choosing a doctor, although other factors – including word of mouth from friends or family – were viewed as more important. In addition, 43 percent of those who did not use online doctor ratings said they did not trust the information on those sites.

Furthermore, Dr. Hanauer’s team said that 35 percent of those who did seek out physician review websites over the past year selected a doctor based on positive ratings, and 37 percent chose not to use a doctor based on negative ratings. Overall, awareness of online physician ratings (65 percent) was lower overall than consumer products such as cars (87 percent) and non-healthcare industry service providers (71 percent).

“Our study indicates that the public is using online physician ratings to make important decisions for their healthcare, despite persistent questions about how trustworthy these rating sites are,” Hanauer said.

He also noted that just five percent of responders said that they had ever posted a review or rating of a physician, adding, “The small percentage of people who actually post reviews suggests that people who depend on online ratings may not be getting a balanced picture of a doctor’s care.”

Overall, the research found that 19 percent of respondents said they consider doctor rating websites “very important” in their search for a physician, while 89 percent of respondents viewed “accepts my health insurance” as “very important” and 59 percent said a convenient office location also was “very important.”