Docs wary of online review sites

ACPE survey: physicians skeptical about sampling biases, invalid competency measurements
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While a majority of doctors recently surveyed by the American College of Physician Executives say they are "frustrated" with consumer online ratings, many also admit they still check them out.

In the survey, which garnered 730 responses from members, most respondents said online ratings sites are "invalid measurements of competency" that contain sampling biases. Most respondents also said patient use of such sites is low: roughly 55 percent believe that less than one-quarter of patients use them.

What's more, on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 representing the most value, most respondents said that the average value of such sites is a hair over 3.

One respondent called the sites a "good idea in theory" that "allow angry people to do a lot of damage."

Still, most respondents realize that such sites aren't going anywhere anytime soon. "Making accurate and timely healthcare organization and provider ratings readily available to the public and to payers and regulators is both essential to moving to patient-centric care and, ultimately, inevitable," according to one respondent.

Physicians aren't only skeptical of online review sites, however. Respondents also say they are skeptical of ratings performed by outside organizations such as the Joint Commission and the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Instead, they prefer internal quality ratings, primarily due to accountability.

A study published earlier this month in the Journal of Urology reaches at least one similar conclusion as the ACPE survey: ratings websites reflect too few views. For that study, researchers from the Loyola University Medical Center studied reviews of 500 urologists--471 males and 29 females--on sites such as Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com, and RateMDs.com, finding that nearly 80 percent are rated on one of 10 free physician-review websites. The number of reviews per site ranged from zero to 64, with the average being 2.4.

To learn more:
- check out the survey's results (.pdf)

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