Did you know: online review site Yelp was originally created to collect online doctor reviews? Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman built the site in 2004 because he got sick and was struggling to find doctors online.
“Back then there was very little information on the Internet,” he said, “It was frustrating. We realized the best way to find a doctor, or other services, was by word of mouth.”
Since then, a number of doctor reviews and physician rating sites have been launched, including RateMDs, Dr. Oogle, Healthgrades, Vitals, and Wellness.com. These sites increasingly serve as key sources of information for patients and caretakers looking to make better decisions about their health, fitness, and lifestyle.
(Check out: “Encouraging Online Reviews: 5 Tips to Make It Easy”)
A new study by business school researchers from the University of Rochester shows that it’s not just Yelp that’s delivering a surprisingly good measure of general patient satisfaction. Entitled “Can We Trust Online Physician Ratings?” and published in the Social Science Research Network, the study examines whether or not online reviews and ratings accurately reflect physicians’ medical skill.
Specifically, the study looks at data from the Florida Hospital Discharge, as well as ratings of cardiac surgeons in RateMDs who perform bypass surgeries on those with coronary artery, one of the most common causes of death in the US. According to findings, five-star surgeons perform significantly better and are more likely to be selected by sicker patients than lower-rated surgeons.
The researchers write, “Our main findings show that patients treated by five-star surgeons have better odds of living than those treated by surgeons rated below five stars, even after controlling for other observed surgeon characteristics such as education and experience.”
This suggests that online reviews and ratings – at least of doctors, physicians, and medical professionals – might actually be more trustworthy than critics of review sites are willing to admit. Or to put it in simpler terms: you’ll have better odds of living if you chose a surgeon with a five-star rating on RateMDs.
The study also confirms the growing importance of doctor reviews and physician ratings: while not many are quick to trust them (and user-generated content should certainly always be taken with a grain of salt), these reviews and ratings play an important role in shaping consumers’ healthcare and medical decisions, as well as practitioners’ business reputation.
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