Doctor review websites are a growing factor for patients choosing providers

February 19, 2014

More patients are aware of websites that rate physicians, and they make a growing impact on which doctor they pick.

Consumers are using review websites, such as Yelp, to compare restaurants, salons-and physicians. More patients are aware of websites that rate physicians, and they make a growing impact on which doctor they pick, according to a new survey released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Nearly 20% of patients say that physicians’ ratings on websites are very important, and 40% said the websites are somewhat important, when looking for a primary care physician. Of those who used the web to search for physicians, 35% say they picked a doctor based on good ratings, while 27% reported avoiding those with bad ratings.

There were patients who don’t see the web as a reliable source for selecting a doctor-43% of those who don’t use online physician rating websites thought the information was unreliable.

If you Google a physician’s name, a handful of popular websites might pop up, including HealthGrades.com, RateMDs.com, or Vitals.com. They offer physician ratings in the form of stars or percentages, based off of patient satisfaction reviews or algorithms that weigh certain patient experiences over others. Some charge a fee for patients to access the full reviews.

The 'Yelpification’ of healthcare has been discouraging to some physicians because patients may confuse them with other doctors with similar names or listings may give out-of-date contact information. Also, physicians who receive poor ratings don’t have a chance to refute any of the claims. According to a ZocDoc survey released in October 2013, 85% of physicians read their online reviews.

The JAMA survey found that patients still overwhelmingly pick their primary care physicians based off of whether they accept their health insurance, as 89% of patients say that is very important. Convenient location (59%), physician’s years of experience (46%), practice reputation (44%), word of mouth (38%), and physician referral (34%) all ranked higher in patient importance than website ratings.