01 Jun Expanding Patient Use of Physician Rating Sites
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study
Dr. Hanauer: The main findings of our study were that:
(1) Awareness and usage of rating sites for physicians appears to be growing,
(2) The public is using these sites to make decisions about selecting (or avoiding) a physician, and
(3) The percentage of people leaving ratings is still low (about 5%) suggesting that the results may not be representative of the majority of patient experiences.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Hanauer: This partly depends on one’s point of view. While the percentage of people aware of and using physician rating sites was considerably lower than other types or ratings, they were still higher than we had originally anticipated. About a quarter of the overall population has visited online physician rating sites. And that was back in September 2012, so the numbers are probably even higher today.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Hanauer: Clinicians should be aware that the public is aware of and using these sites and may be basing their decisions based on what they see there. Many clinicians are already concerned about such sites, but they are likely here to stay. Whether or not there will be a proliferation of more sites or if only a handful will exist long-term remains to be seen. Patients should be aware that there can be a lot of variability in rating sites, not only in the ratings and reviews but also in what is being measured (for example, friendliness of office staff, wait times, etc). Further, and perhaps more importantly, patients should at a minimum consider how many ratings a physician has, since many have few ratings and these may not be fully representative of the overall experiences of the patients.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Hanauer: I think there is still a lot to be examined in terms of factors influencing patients’ decisions on who they choose for their doctor, what factors matter most, and motivations for visiting sites and leaving comments.
David A. Hanauer, Kai Zheng, Dianne C. Singer, Achamyeleh Gebremariam, Matthew M. Davis. Public Awareness, Perception, and Use of Online Physician Rating Sites. JAMA, 2014; 311 (7): 734 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2013.283194