Physician review websites (PRWs)—sites that permit patients and third-party reviewers to grade physicians in popular online forums—have become increasingly popular over the past few years.
Statistics that relate to this trend are as follow:
- The number of reviews on RateMDs.com, one of the first PRWs, has grown from 2, 475 reviews in 2005 to 112, 024 in 2010. Today, the most popular physician review sites are Yelp and Healthgrades.
- Younger patients, identified as Generation Y (also called the Millennial Generation), are the most frequent posters to PRWs (34 percent).
- Almost half (44 percent) of patients are willing to go out-of-network to visit physicians with good reviews, even if it means spending more dollars on healthcare.
- Patients use PRWs to select a physician on several factors (in order of importance): quality of care (48 percent); PRW rating (45 percent); and patient experience (40 percent). The physician qualities patients seek the most are ability to make an accurate diagnosis (34 percent), followed by listening and explanation skills.
- Regarding administrative aspects of the practice, patients are most interested in length of wait times, staff friendliness, and ease of scheduling appointments.
- Of those patients who use the web to search for physicians, 35 percent select a physician based on good ratings, while 27 percent avoid those physicians with bad ratings.
Doctors feel that the majority of PRWs lack in sharing important physician information, such as languages spoken, gender, use of electronic health records (EHRs), and success in meeting quality care standards. Additionally, physicians state that lumping specialists with general practitioners on the same site and using the same rating scale is like comparing a taxicab to a jet. For instance, a family care physician and a thoracic surgeon don’t provide similar services and thus shouldn’t be graded in the same manner.
In regard to wait times at physician offices, this is oftentimes due to patients and not physicians. For example, a patient who arrives 15 minutes late to an appointment can cause the remainder of the physician’s schedule for the day to run behind. Additionally, some patients require more of the physician’s time once in the examination room than others.
In regards to this, Dr. Cockerell states, “I am always conscientious of my patients’ time and strive to stay on schedule during clinic days. However, there are some days that I run behind because some patients have needs that take longer than expected. I ask my patients to please understand this because if they require extra time with me, they’ll receive it just like other patients. I encourage all patients to discuss any concerns with me and to allow me the opportunity to resolve the issues before turning to review sites to post a negative review.”
The American Medical Association (AMA) has developed a policy that calls for the development of educational materials to help physicians identify legal options to protect them from targeted harassment and effective solutions to erroneous physician information posted online. AMA policy also supports the use of physician profiling to promote quality of care as long as the methods used to promote transparency and accuracy allow physicians the opportunity to respond in order to express their viewpoint.
Dr. Cockerell asks his patients to express their concerns to him during their appointments, and if that is not possible, to contact his office to allow the patient and a staff member to work together to resolve the issue.
American College of Surgeons (2013). Online Physician Reviews: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://bulletin.facs.org/2013/09/online-physician-reviews/.
Center for Advancing Health (2015). Using Physician Rating Websites. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.cfah.org/prepared-patient/prepared-patient-articles/using-physician-rating-websites.
Medical Economics (2014). Physicians and Online Reviews: Patients Focued on Quality of Care. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/physicians-and-online-reviews-patients-focused-quality-care?page=full.
The Wall Street Journal (2015). Doctors Check Online Ratings From Patients and Make Change. Retrieved August 30, 2015, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304422704579571940584035918.