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Physicians and online reviews: Patients focused on quality of care


A national survey found that patients are also evaluating physicians based on diagnosis accuracy and wait times

Patients are increasingly turning to online review sites before selecting a physician, according to a new national survey of patients.

One interesting result as to the power of these reviews: Nearly half of the respondents, 44%, expressed a willingness to go out-of-network to see physicians with good reviews, even if it means incurring more costs and fees. On a related note, 48% of patients said that quality of care was the most important factor they considered when selecting a physician. That was followed by the rating (45%), and patient experience (40%).

The qualities of a physician that were most sought after in the reviews was diagnostic accuracy, at 34%, followed by listening and explanation skills. When it comes to administrative aspects of the practice, online review seekers were most interested in length of wait times, staff friendliness and the ease of scheduling appointments.

The survey found that most patients share neutral or positive reviews, with the main goal of reviewing to help other patients. Yelp and Healthgrades were identified as the most popular physician rating websites.

NEXT PAGE: The 'Yelpification' of healthcare


The survey results, published by practice management consultancy Software Advice and including answers from more than 4,500 patients across the United States, echo similar surveys that have been released in recent years.

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.

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to some physicians because patients may confuse them with other doctors with similar names or listings may give out-of-date contact information.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.

Still, many patients value other factors before 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.

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