Study: Online physician ratings not indicative of care quality

Online physician ratings are a poor indicator of clinical performance, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

For the study, researchers analyzed online ratings, specialty-specific performance scores and peer review scores for 78 physicians representing eight medical and surgical specialties. Researchers pulled online ratings from the five most popular ratings websites: Healthgrades, Vitals, Yelp, RateMDs and UCompareHealth. Performance scores included metrics on 30-day readmissions, length of stay and adjusted cost of care. Peer review scores included ratings from both fellow physicians and administrators.

Researchers found no significant association between a physician's average online rating score and specialty-specific performance scores or peer review scores. The online ratings did not correlate to any score metrics addressing clinical quality or value-based care. Of physicians who ranked the lowest for performance scores, only 5 percent to 32 percent also ranked among the lowest in online ratings.

"When you're trying to choose a restaurant online, it's OK if you get a bad recommendation, but the stakes are high here," study coauthor Timothy Daskivich, MD, a urologic oncologist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told Reuters. "Online rating companies should be clear about what their ratings measure and don't measure so patients understand the scores."

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