In a world where people wouldn't think of planning a trip or going out to eat without consulting online customer reviews, sites that rate doctors seem like a natural. The American Medical Association doesn't like them, though, opposing them based on privacy concerns.
But when Dr. Tara Lagu of Baystate Medical Center in Springfield and her colleagues studied sites like Angie's List, they found a few surprises. First, it was hard to find very many reviews of the 300 Boston doctors they randomly selected -- only 190 reviews of 81 physicians on 33 websites. Second, almost 9 out of 10 reviews were positive. That excludes the raves that looked like they had been written by the doctors themselves, based on the string of affiliations and formal language used.
"We found that the reviews were pretty scarce, [but] it seems like patients are committed to saying positive things about their doctors," Lagu said in an interview. "Many offered constructive rather than negative things. A lot of them contained feedback to help the doctors and other patients."
The sites themselves weren't always easy to use, lacking comparisons to other doctors or adequate search tools, the researchers said. Patients haven't flocked to government sites that assess doctor or hospital quality, either, according to research cited in the paper, which appears in Journal of General Internal Medicine.
"These sites are here to stay," Lagu said about yelp.com, Healthgrades.com, and the like. "I think we have the opportunity then to help shape the genre. ... We can help direct the improvement of the sites either by referring patients to them or just directly working with the sites themselves."
Despite privacy concerns, little information fell into that category, Lagu said. But a messy waiting room or tough parking do matter a lot, in case doctors think it's all about them.
So patients, do you rate your doctors? Do you use the sites?
Doctors, do you read your reviews? Talk to patients about the sites?
Let us know in the comments.
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
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