Do older patients use the Web to choose a doctor?

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Even though older adults have started to utilize online reviews, it is still not the most popular method of choosing a physician.

According to a recent study from the University of Michigan, older patients between the age of 50 and 80 are increasingly using the internet to find a physician, but it is still not the most common way they decide whether or not to make an appointment.                       

The study, conducted through the university’s National Poll on Healthy Aging, found these results when it came to older patients:

·      43 percent of older patient had ever reviewed physician ratings online.

·      65 percent of older adults who search online for a physician read online physician ratings.

·      34 percent read reviews to find a new doctor, while 31% read reviews for a doctor they had already seen.

In addition, 71% of the patient respondents said they would select a doctor with positive ratings, even if he or she had some negative reviews. About 69% said they would avoid seeing a doctor with mostly negative ratings and reviews.

However, only 7 percent of respondents leave a review of their own. This is a problem because it means that the reviews that are available could be potentially skewed.

The lack of reviews may also be due to distrust: 53 percent of older adults feel that some doctors influence their own ratings to make themselves look better.

As a result, older adults prefer to gather information about physicians in more traditional ways such as recommendations from friends, family, and other doctors. Specifically, older patients put stock in:


·      How long it takes to get an appointment (61 percent)

·      The doctor’s years of experience (42 percent)

·      Recommendation from another physician (40 percent)

·      Word of mouth from family and friends (23 percent)

·      The ability to interact with their doctor online for scheduling and refills (21 percent).

“Online doctor ratings and reviews represent a potentially useful resource for older adults,” the study reads. “While some may think that choosing a doctor using online ratings is something only younger people may do, this national poll shows that this practice is also common among older adults.”

The number of older patients that use the internet to search for online physician reviews is expected to increase. In addition to using online review sites where anyone can post a review, the study suggests patients get information from state medical boards, which are an underutilized resource.

“Finding a new doctor can be challenging and stressful,” the study reads. “Online doctor ratings and reviews represent a potentially useful resource for older adults and are likely to continue to increase in use over time.”