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More than ever, consumers rely on online reviews to guide their purchase decisions. These include decisions involving medical care and treatment options, like where to receive treatment from, who to call in case of an emergency, and where and who the best doctors are.

The patients who post online reviews for others to read, however, can sometimes be medical professionals’ harshest critics. In fact, a new study by medical marketing firm Vanguard Communications reveals an alarming new trend in which the highest educated and trained doctors seem to get the poorest online reviews – making it more critical than ever to invest resources in medical review monitoring.

Analyzing over 28,000 doctor and physician reviews posted on Yelp, Vanguard Communications found that – in terms of average ratings – healthcare consumers in the US are least satisfied with care given by psychiatrists, dermatologists, orthopedists, and family medicine doctors, while being fondest of naturopaths, audiologists, oncologists, and osteopathic physicians. (Check out the full rankings here.)

The study also indicates that as a healthcare specialist’s level of education and training increases, patient satisfaction levels decrease.

For example, the average patient rating on Yelp for a naturopathy specialist is 4.62 out of 5 stars. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, psychiatrists receive a paltry average rating of 3.08 out of 5.

The five specialties that enjoy the highest overall ratings (averaging 4.29 out of 5) do not require MD degrees, while doctors with the MD title have an average rating of only 3.80 out of 5.

“Does that mean more highly trained specialists deliver poorer customer service? We can’t say with any certainty, although we found a correlation,” said Vanguard Communications CEO Ron Harman King. “Our research to date (also) shows that patients complain online 4 times as often about a medical practice’s customer service – such as receptionists’ cordiality and doctors’ bedside manners – than about a doctor’s ability to heal.”

There are a number of possible explanations for why the results of the study turned out this way. Perhaps the cases of highly trained healthcare specialists are typically more difficult than those taken on by those without the same level of education and training; or perhaps the bigger work environments where many MD holders practice contribute to the patient experience being less personalized.

Whatever the reasons are, the implications of the study are clear: professionals and providers engaged actively in medical review monitoring – that is, tracking patient reviews and responding to feedback – stand to gain the kinds of benefits that boost online reputation, far more than those who are not tuned in. Regardless of your medical specialty, make it a point to listen closely and respond promptly to what patients are saying on online review sites like Yelp, Vitals, Healthgrades, RateMDs, and more. To get started, check out our guide: “Doctors, Hospitals, and Healthcare Marketers and Organizations: A List of Online Review Sites You Track and Manage.”

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.


  1. Baseer Hannan

    The more education you have the less customer satisfaction? Maybe it has to do with bedside manner. The longer you spend at Yale the less likely Joe the Plumber is to understand anything you say.

  2. Vince

    Or maybe American colleges have become just as out of touch as American high schools.

  3. Patrick R

    Baseer, yes unfortunately people place a lot of weight on personality when reviewing a doctor. While most people who read a review about a doctor imagine their getting informed about that doctor’s abilities.

  4. Marija

    Everyone can post a review, both normal and spoiled people. A lot of bored or lonely old people in my hometown go to doctor just to talk to someone and after the doctor send them home without new (unnecessary) drugs, they bad-mouthing the doctor. On the other hand, a well respected doctor called my sister’s friend “lazy cow” (!!!), when she was in hospital with her child and nobody believes her because this was “a well respected” doctor.

    • Kyle

      You all know where is this leading? Doctors with plenty good review will become overwhelmed with work, so they will raise their price, which will lead some people to change doctors. The more reviews they get the higher their price is. Just like in sports. If your average score is high your payment will be higher as well. Now tell me that a Doctor is same as a basketball player!!!!!! Ridiculous!!!!!

      • smstudent

        I agree with @Kyle about that. If two doctors went to school together and both of them specialized in the same field, why should there be any difference? Maybe one of them simply put up his/her online profile sooner and got plenty more reviews. Does that means that he will take better care of the patient then the one who does not have time to post profile because he/she is actually working? That is just wrong. And by providing a positive review to one of them makes you become a fan and not a patient. Maybe the next step will be adding some half naked cheerleaders to the waiting room.

  5. thoushallpass

    Hahaha. Great point you got there @smstudent. The more they advertise actually mean that they don’t have patients. Once they became overwhelmed with patients how will they take care of them? They will not provide full diagnosis, they will not listen to the patients problems and so on. But they will not care about that anymore, they will have a big database of clients and great reviews that will get them more and more patients. This sites for reviewing doctors should be taken down once and for all.

  6. Sanjay

    It’s a great thing you can rate doctors now. I don’t want to go to some bad doctors. After all, it my health we are talking about, not some dinner or tourist destination which can go wrong and no harm done.

  7. Jay Bird

    No, I don’t think about rating doctors ability. I am not a doctor, I am a patient. It seems everyone nowadays knows how somebody have to do his work. Like everyone are specialist for everything. Everybody knows everything, people are ,,smart,, today, learning from net. Why did anybody need specialist for anything, just ,,click,, and you see…hahaha…Don’ make me laugh. Let them do their job, they went to school to learn something, to help people,help, help…Only thing that is important is to have empathy for sickness, sick people often need a warm look and nice and polite person in white cute. I could be bad and intentionally send good or bad review just to amuse myself.

    • Sammy J

      I agree with you, Jay Bird, no one shouldn’t write reviews about the doctors, they don’t need to be on some lists and make some other to evaluate their work. It so shameless.

  8. Not The Real Shoe

    I agree Sanjay. you can not choose doctor random, it’s no pub or bar… I prefer to choose doctor based on the good reviews…

  9. David R

    Each profession should be criticized, sites for reviewing doctors is gooooood… when I had some bad experience I want to share with others.