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's website.
Tara Lagu, 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.”
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.
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.”