Physician-rating websites have serious limitations, study finds

Nearly 60 percent of patients say online reviews are important to them when choosing a new physician, but according to a research letter in JAMA, the websites commonly used by patients to find a new clinician have significant limitations.


Researchers identified 28 physician rating websites and then searched each website for reviews of a random pool of 600 physicians in Boston, Dallas and Portland, Ore.

Here are six findings from their research:

  • Most sites (26) included an overall star rating. The other two sites only collected narratives and did not provide an overall rating.
  • Just five sites allowed users to search for a physician by clinical condition.
  • Only four sites allowed for search by physician sex.
  • Fifteen sites allowed for search by hospital affiliation.
  • Only three allowed for search by languages spoken.
  • Nine websites allowed for search by insurance accepted.

"These results demonstrate that it is difficult for a prospective patient to find (for any given physician on any commercial physician-finding website) a quantity of reviews that would accurately relay the experience of care with that physician," the study authors wrote.

"Methods that use systematic data collection (eg, surveys) may have a greater chance of amassing a sufficient quantity and quality of reviews to allow patients to make inferences about patient experience of care," the authors concluded.

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