Study: Negative online physician reviews fail to reflect patient satisfaction survey responses

Patients who give physicians negative reviews online do not give similar responses in formal patient satisfaction surveys, according to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. However, when compared with colleagues who do not have negative reviews, physicians score lower on factors beyond their immediate control.

In a pilot study between September and December 2014, the researchers used Google to follow negative online reviews of physicians at Mayo Clinic's Rochester, Minn.-based campus. Out of 2,148 physicians, who represented 28 departments and divisions, 113 had negative online reviews.

The researchers then compared how these physicians' scored in the Press Ganey Patient Satisfaction Survey with the scores of other Mayo Clinic physicians in similar fields who did not receive negative online reviews. The researchers did not find any statistical differences in the overall scores or in scores for patient communication.

However, the group of physicians with negative reviews scored significantly lower on factors spanning beyond patient-physician communication. These factors included interaction with desk staff, nursing, physical environment, appointment access, waiting time, problem resolution, billing and parking. The data did not identify specific instances or patient experiences that led to negative reviews.

The researchers acknowledged the limitations of the study, including the small physician groups, limited time period to collect the data, using a single search engine and that the online reviews reflected single experiences of patients.

However, the study findings shed light on how differing scores affect patient experience and physician reputation. "Our study highlights the disconnection between industry-vetted patient satisfaction scores and online review comments," senior study author Sandhya Pruthi, MD, said in a press release. "Patients need to be aware of these distinctions as they make decisions about their health. Physicians also need to be aware, as they manage their online reputations."

More articles on patient engagement:
Millennials more satisfied with health plans, out-of-pocket costs than baby boomers
Survey: Majority of physicians don't think patients listen to lifestyle advice
Nearly one-fourth of US population has low health literacy: 5 findings 

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