Study: Most U.S. Residents See Value in Online Physician Reviews

February 19, 2014 in News

About 59% of U.S. residents said physician-ranking websites were at least “somewhat important” when selecting a physician, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Reuters reports (Seaman, Reuters, 2/18).

Study Details

For the study, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School surveyed 2,137 individuals nationwide in September 2012 (Pittman, “The Gupta Guide,” MedPage Today, 2/18). Respondents were asked about physician-rating websites, such as:

  • Healthgrades.com
  • Vitals.com; and
  • RateMDs.com (Reuters, 2/18).

Study Findings

The researchers found that 65% of respondents said they were aware of physician-rating websites and that 23% of respondents had looked for physician ratings or reviews to help select a doctor within the past year (Painter, USA Today, 2/18). 

Of those who were aware of physician rating websites:

  • 19% said that they had visited such sites within the past year; and
  • 17% said they had visited such sites more than once over the past year.

The researchers also found that 40% of respondents said that the reviews and ratings on such sites were “somewhat important” to their process of selecting a physician, while another 19% said that the reviews and ratings were “very important” (Reuters, 2/18).

Consumer Priorities

However, the study also found that respondents prioritized other factors above such websites when selecting a physician, including:

  • Accepting health insurance, at 95%;
  • A convenient office location, at 95%;
  • A physician’s experience, at 92%;
  • Word-of-mouth referrals, at 85%;
  • The physician being part of a trusted group, at 81%; and
  • A referral from another physician, at 81%.

Comments

David Hanauer, the study’s lead author, said that the growing use of such websites could be problematic since it is almost impossible to tell whether the reviews are valid or justified.

He said that since the “awareness and use of these sites seems to be increasing,” it “may be time for physicians to think about how to participate in developing reliable ratings” (“The Gupta Guide,” MedPage Today, 2/18).

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