Health IT

Most surprising thing about doctor review websites? 80% of physicians agree with ratings

How will physicians deal with the growing power of “Medical Googlers”?As the healthcare industry begins to adopt some of the practices of the travel and leisure sector, physician review websites are one of the clearest indications of that trend. No one really expected physicians to like being reviewed like a beauty contest on their professional demeanor, the amount of time they make patients wait, cleanliness of their offices and medical knowledge. But a new report said that of the physicians who look at their reviews, 39 percent agree with their rating and 42 percent partially agree.

The American College of Physician Executives study included responses from 730 participants — the majority were chief medical officers and medical directors. About 69 percent said they look at their reviews on physician rating websites. Healthgrades and Vitals were the most frequently cited go-to physician rating websites. More than half said they believed the ratings reflected less than 25 percent of patients.

About one-quarter said these review websites provide no benefit and are a nuisance and aren’t used by their patients. But for the 51 percent who abstained from checking out what patients were saying about them, there were a mixture of reasons that were peppered with bitterness, apathy and defeatism.

  • “I think most patients who take the time to complete it have not had a good experience. Sampling bias.”
  • “No way to influence them. Why bother?”
  •  “I deal with so many drug addicts and psychiatric patients that have the time and motivation to hurt me online that it’s not worth the aggravation to even look. It will just upset me.”
  • “It’s ridiculous to treat physicians as salespeople.”
  • “They don’t accurately reflect the competency of a physician.”

So what’s to be concluded from those findings? Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but maybe a grudging respect. I totally understand the emotional component that physicians feel about these websites. It’s one thing to be evaluated by peers who understand your profession, workload and professional obligations, but being subjected to the public eye can be downright embarrassing and frustrating. Look how some lawyers reacted to a lawyer ratings website: They sued! Still, at a time when patient-centered care has become the imperative for all physicians, those who may treat patients brusquely or poorly can expect that some patients will be motivated to complain about them. On the other hand, those who have a good experience with a physician are more likely to tell others and may even want to share a review.