Online physician review websites may be offering distorted data

A study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found data from online third-party physician review websites may be misleading for patients.

Researchers examined ratings for 212,933 healthcare providers on the Healthgrades' consumer ratings website. These providers represent 29 medical specialties, 15 surgical specialties and six allied health professions in the U.S.

Researchers found overall satisfaction ratings tended to skew positively, fall within narrow ranges and had different distributions across specialties. Thus, seemingly high scores may actually be average or low, resulting in patients overestimating the ratings of the physicians they choose.

Third-party review websites can help amend the situation by providing median star ratings for each provider and making note of where they rank among peers in their specialty. For the current study, researchers also created an online tool that used provider rankings to show how they compared to others in their field.

"Specialty-specific percentile ranks may help consumers to more meaningfully assess online physician ratings," study authors concluded.

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