How valuable are online physician ratings systems?

Earlier this year, I was privileged to participate in a health blogger summit convened by Consumer Reports at its New York headquarters. One of the topics discussed at the event — in fact, the one that generated the most controversy — was online health ratings systems.

Many in attendance — including doctors and consumer advocates — were supportive of online ratings, particularly in helping patients find a doctor. But others, most notably Avery Comarow, editor of “America’s Best Hospitals” for U.S. News & World Report, dismissed Web ratings as dangerous popularity contests. Avery made the point that online physician ratings were biased toward negative reviews and had little objective medical basis.

I agree with Avery that doctor ratings sites are far from perfect. But frankly, to dismiss them out of hand is just silly — or at least unrealistic. People use them because, increasingly, people need them.

Years ago, most people found a physician by asking their neighbors and friends for recommendations and they often stayed with their physician for many years. Today, because of health insurance plans, social mobility, and other factors, patients are seeking new methods for finding and vetting their doctors.

In addition to offering subjective reviews, physician-rating Web sites can help patients research whether a doctor is board-certified, their educational history, office hours, accepted insurance providers, and other information.

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If you haven’t used a doctor ratings site before, here are a few that are worth checking out:

Avery is right that patients who have had a bad experience are more likely to write about it on these sites than those who haven’t.

You should certainly keep this in mind, but I’m a firm believer in giving consumers as much information — and as many choices — as possible in making their healthcare decisions.

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs. - Search. Compare. Save.

0 thoughts on “How valuable are online physician ratings systems?

  • I’m from Angie’s List and just wanted to chime in that we agree that the most valuable health care ratings will come from services that value accountability and fairness “two things that have been a priority for us for the past 14 years. We’ve invested a lot of resources “both human and technological and in offering reports that are as honest, fair and accurate as possible.

    1. We don’t allow anonymous reviews.
    2. Members are held responsible for accurately reporting their experiences.
    3. Service providers can’t put themselves on the List — only a member can do that.
    4. We use both technological and human monitoring to catch attempts to game the system, and we take action against guideline violators.
    5. We alert providers the first time a member reports on them and offer – free of charge — to alert them to any future reports so they know what’s being said about them.
    6. We also encourage providers to respond either on our List or directly to members.

    I find it interesting that many physicians believe the majority of online ratings are negative. We’ve found it to be the exact opposite, at least on Angie’s List. Our members rely on each other and love to share information about great service providers & doctors as well as plumbers. We strongly believe that physicians should embrace sites like Angie’s List because there’s far more benefit than they apparently realize.

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