Are Doctors Ready To Embrace Online Reviews?

Doctors Check Online Reviews From Patients and Make Changedoctor online reviews internet marketing florida

Many physicians are wary of bad reviews from disgruntled patients

To find a good restaurant, we can check any number of online reviews.

To select a doctor, however, many of us rely on a single recommendation, or even a random search through the Yellow Pages. A growing number of doctor-review websites are aiming to change that by allowing people to rate physicians in much the same way they would a sushi dinner or haircut.

Experts say there some 40 to 50 online sites that include doctor reviews or ratings. The three big ones—Healthgrades, RateMDs.com and Vitals—all say they are seeing significant growth in terms of number of reviews and unique visitors.

About 25% of U.S. adults consulted online physician-rating sites, and more than a third of them went to a physician or avoided one based on the ratings, according to a recent study.

Many doctors remain wary of online reviews, concerned that negative comments can damage their reputation. Being a good doctor can sometimes mean giving patients hard advice. And some doctors fear comments from disgruntled patients or ex-employees could drive other patients away.

Some reviews “can be pretty brutal,” says Andrew Pasternak, a family physician in Reno, Nev. However, he says, “part of being a physician now is having to deal with these.”

In another study currently being reviewed for publication, Dr. Gao and Ritu Agarwal, co-directors of the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems, suggest online reviews are generally reliable indicators of patients’ opinions.

The researchers looked at 1,425 family-practice physicians in three metropolitan areas. Of these, nearly 800 had ratings at online site RateMDs.com. An outside company then surveyed more than 100 patients from each doctor’s office using a standardized government questionnaire to rate impressions of physician quality.

The two sets of results mostly reflected each other.

“There’s a fairly high correlation between the online quality measure and the true quality measure,” says Dr. Agarwal.

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Write to Sumathi Reddy at sumathi.reddy@wsj.com

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