An increasing number of consumers today think it’s important to check out online reviews before choosing a doctor. Trusting these reviews, however, is a different matter.
This is one of the conclusions from a study on the use of online physician rating sites. Published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that 65 percent of respondents (representative of the US population) were aware of online physician ratings found on sites like like Yelp, Dr. Oogle,Healthgrades, Vitals, Wellness.com, and RateMDs.
Moreover, 19 percent of those surveyed called these online review sites “very important” for picking a physician, with another 44 percent calling them “somewhat important.”
Among those who hoped to find a good doctor, 35 percent said they were able to choose one based on good ratings and 37 percent avoided one based on bad ratings. These numbers echo the findings of a recent patient satisfaction survey in which 72 percent of patients say that negative reviews will likely prevent them from choosing a particular doctor.
The study – authored by David A. Hanauer of the University of Michigan Medical School with colleagues – also revealed that not everyone is quick to trust user-generated information found online about doctors and medical professionals.
In fact, for those who had not checked or read online physician ratings, 43 percent explained that it was because they did not quite trust the information. This is not to mention the fact that there is a growing concern among consumers and businesses alike about how authentic reviews are.
The authors suggested that “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.”
Added Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven, president of the American Medical Association: “Anonymous online opinions of physicians should be taken with a grain of salt, and should certainly not be a patient’s sole source of information when looking for a new physician.”
Nonetheless it cannot be denied that, more than ever, patients are seeking or sharing opinions online about physicians, dentists, and medical professionals. Gone, indeed, are the days when the sole duty of doctors was to heal.