Online Physician Ratings Often Differ From Other Quality Measures

December 4, 2014 in News

Online physician review websites might not provide patients with useful information for selecting a doctor, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, Reuters reports.

Details of Study

For the study, researchers compared care quality information on 1,299 doctors with the online reviews they could find for doctors in the study.

The researchers limited study participation to doctors who had completed an American Board of Internal Medicine education module aimed at improving their diabetes and hypertension treatment practice.

To assess care quality, the researchers examined patient:

  • Medical records; and
  • Surveys.

To find online information, the researchers searched doctors’ names, cities and specialties in Google, and used ratings from eight websites, such as Healthgrades, UCompareHealthCare and Vitals.


The researchers found that website ratings generally did not align with clinical quality measure reporting.

Patient experience was the only area in which the researchers found a small association between online reviews and validated care quality measures. Specifically, a doctor who received a five out of five stars in an online review had 82% of patients rate their overall care quality as “very good” in a formal survey. In comparison, a doctor with a one-star rating had 79% of patients rate care quality as “very good.”

Bradley Gray, an ABIM researcher, noted that websites that appeared highest in Google searches seemed to correlate more closely with patient experience scores.

Gray also said that the researchers did not observe major differences between the doctors who had been reviewed online and those who had not (Doyle, Reuters, 12/3).

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