More than a third of people select a physician based upon online ratings, and more than a third avoid a doctor who has bad reviews, according to a research letter in the February 19 issue of JAMA.
Researchers conducted an online survey of a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population (more than 3,500 adults) in September 2012 about their knowledge and use of online ratings for choosing doctors.
Results appeared in the Feb. 19 issue of JAMA.
Among the findings:
• 40% reported that physician rating sites were “very important” when choosing a physician, although rating sites were endorsed less frequently than other factors, including word of mouth from family and friends;
• the 65% percent awareness rating of online physician ratings was lower than for consumer goods such as cars (87%) and non-health care service providers (71%);
• 35% reported selecting a physician based on good ratings and 37% had avoided a physician with bad ratings; and
• among those who had not sought online physician ratings, 43% didn’t trust in the information on the sites.
Researchers acknowledged limitations, including that an Internet-based survey was biased toward a web-savvy population that was younger than most health care consumers. (Twenty-one percent of respondents were 18 to 29; 17%, 30 to 39; 18%, 40 to 49; 19%, 50 to 59; and 26%, 60 or older.)
“Nevertheless, 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,” researchers concluded.