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Peter Angood, CEO of ACPE
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Docs skeptical of online ratings, ACPE survey finds


By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: January 16, 2013 - 10:00 am ET
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According to a survey of physician executives, doctors are still highly skeptical of online ratings from patients and don't think many patients consult them—but most acknowledge that they have checked out their own profiles.

The American College of Physician Executives sent the survey (PDF) to more than 5,600 of its almost 11,000 members, with about 730 responding in October and November last year.

Only 21% believed that more than half of U.S. patients consulted an online-rating site, with 55% believing only one-quarter of patients or fewer had done so. That said, 69% of survey respondents acknowledged seeing what had been said about them online.

Of those, the most-viewed site was Healthgrades.com, which had been visited by 89% of respondents; Vitals.com was a distant second and was visited by 33% of the respondents. These were followed by AngiesList.com, visited by 19%; Yelp.com, 13%; and DoctorScorecard.com and RateMDs.com, which were both visited by 9% of respondents.

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RateMDs.com, one of the oldest physician-ratings websites, was the subject a study last year in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, which analyzed 386,000 reviews between 2005 and 2010 and found that “Online ratings appear to be driven by patients who are delighted with their physicians.”

In that study, one in six doctors had been rated, with an average of 3.2 patient ratings each—but nearly half had been rated by only one patient. On a one-to-five scale assessing helpfulness and knowledge, the average individual physician rating was a 3.9.

Of the physicians in the ACPE survey who acknowledged viewing their personal online ratings, 42% said they partially agreed with them, 39% said they agreed with their rating, and 19% said they didn't agree.

When asked to rate the value of physician-rating websites on a 0-to-10 scale, ACPE survey respondents gave them an average score of 3.2.

“Healthcare, like most other industries, has clearly entered an era where measurement and reporting have increasing importance,” Dr. Peter Angood, CEO of ACPE, said in a news release. “This important new survey illustrates the strong concern among physician leaders about the quality and integrity of current reporting strategies and the data they are based upon.”

Physicians have been warned not to respond too combatively to negative online reviews and cite the case of Dr. David McKee, a neurologist from Duluth, Minn., who filed a defamation lawsuit against Dennis Laurion, the son of one of McKee's patients, who posted negative online reviews about him. Oral arguments were heard before the Minnesota State Supreme Court in September and a decision is still pending, but it's believed the lawsuit has given Laurion's negative reviews more attention than they ever would have received otherwise.


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