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    Physician review websites: The good, the bad, and the technology



    Dr Levine is Practice Director, CCRM New York, and Attending Physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York. He has no conflict of interest to report in respect to the content of this article.



    In 2016 it’s hard to imagine opening our wallets without first opening a web page. We are hunter-gathers of crowd-sourced reviews of movies on Rotten Tomatoes, restaurants on Yelp, hotels on TripAdvisor, and technology on CNET. Getting educated and making informed purchases is what it’s all about. Websites such as Amazon cater to our desire to be advised and they place consumer reviews directly below product descriptions.

    It’s no surprise, then, that our patients are also doing their "homework" about us before coming to our offices. A recently published study of online reviews of orthopedic surgeons found that those in academic practice had significantly higher ratings, as did those in practice for 6 to 10 years; neither physician gender nor geographic region played a significant role in online rating scores.1 Similar results have also been published in reviews of urologists whereby no difference in online ratings was found when gender, region, or city size were compared.2

    In another study of online ratings of orthopedic surgeons, the authors sought to identify key differentiators in overall ranking scores. An analysis of website traffic found that the 8 busiest physician-rating websites were AngiesList.com, EverydayHealth.com, Thirdage.com, Yelp.com, HealthGrades.com, Vitals.com, UCompareHealthcare.com, and RateMDs.com. Upon further analysis, 4 websites were excluded from the study due to "inaccessible or unreliable data," leaving HealthGrades.com, Vitals.com, UCompareHealthcare.com, and RateMDs.com, with 2185 total reviews for their in-depth analysis in a major metropolitan region. The significant variables that led to positive/negative scores were ease of scheduling, time spent with patient, wait time, surgeon proficiency/knowledge, and bedside manner.3

    Interestingly, the authors of both studies found that the average physician had an average score.2,3 In fact, it is the Internet norm for physicians to have favorable reviews! In a 2011 study of nearly 5000 individual online ratings, the average rating was 77/100 on a 100-point scale, 3.8 on a 5-point scale, and 3.1 on a 4-point scale.4 This may be because most patients are content with the care they receive and don't feel compelled to rave or slam a physician. It may also be due to the fact that because there are so many websites, it is hard for the information to be appropriately consolidated into one forum.


    NEXT: The psychology of ratings >>

    Brian A. Levine, MD, MS, FACOG
    Dr. Levine is Practice Director at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, New York, New York.


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