Few patients are posting online reviews of their physicians and, among those that do, most of the reviews they write are positive, according to a study published on the Journal of General Internal Medicine website.
Online reviews of physicians mostly positive, study finds
Tara Lagu, M.D., a Tufts University School of Medicine Assistant Professor and colleagues at the Center for Quality of Care Research at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., took a random sample of 300 Boston-area doctors and searched for reviews posted by their patients on 33 physician-rating websites. They found 190 reviews for 81 of the physicians in the sample with 88% of the reviews positive, 6% negative and 6% considered neutral.
The researchers found 66 posts that included patient-written narratives about 52 physicians with 89% of these classified as positive. Half of the narratives contained tips such as “Helpful, will listen. But be persistent.”
The researchers also identified several narratives that appeared to be supplied by the physicians themselves. These included narratives that “were qualitatively different” from most reviews and contained information most patients wouldn't know, the report said. One narrative cited as an example stated that a doctor “not only sees patients but also does research and edits a professional journal, so she is definitely up-to-date on all the latest developments in reproductive endocrinology. Highly recommend her.”
Of the websites reviewed, 12 were strictly dedicated to physician reviews; 11 were local sites that also offered restaurant reviews; eight were health-information sites that also offered physician reviews; and two were operated by insurance companies. The authors noted how one site offered a free gift valued at $200 in exchange for reviewing at least eight doctors.
In general, the researchers said reviews of physicians were “scarce.” In contrast, they noted how one Lebanese restaurant in the city's Beacon Hill area—where many physician offices are located—had a total of 38 narrative reviews posted on six separate websites.
They also noted that most of the physician-rating websites “were neither user-friendly nor patient-centered,” and they added that search engines were “cumbersome,” advertising was “prevalent” and physician information was “incomplete.”
“Although these websites have the potential to empower patients looking for a physician and to offer a new route for providing physicians with constructive feedback,” the researchers concluded, “use by patients has been limited to date, and reviews are mostly positive.”
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