How to make physicians roll their eyes: Talk to them about online physician-rating sites.

According to this 2019 study evaluating two of these of sites, Healthgrades.com and Vitals.com, only about 25 percent of physicians even check their scores on these websites. And almost none of those who do check them make changes based on those reviews. The arguments against these sites (and the cause of some eye rolling) include lack of score validity and the disgruntled-patient factor.

“Disgruntled or frustrated patients may give undeserving bad reviews based on a single experience that could then discourage other patients from seeking care from that particular physician,” say the authors.

Fortunately, of the small number of patients (seven percent) who actually leave reviews, even fewer leave bad reviews, let alone scathing reviews. In fact, most reviews are positive, with an average rating of eight out of ten.

Unfortunately, one bad review in a small pool of reviews can be disproportionately amplified by the power of the web and the popularity of these physician-rating sites. Among the most popular are:

Each of these sites hosts millions of reviews, and they are just the top tier.

In 2016, the authors of this study of commercial physician-rating websites identified 66 potential physician-rating sites, 28 of which met their inclusion criteria. They then searched those sites for 600 physicians, randomly chosen from three large metropolitan areas in the United States. Most sites used a star rating system and collected narrative comments. Two-thirds of the physicians had reviews on at least one site, with more than 8,000 reviews for the group.

In other words, if you are a physician working in the United States today, you likely have a listing and at least one review on a physician-rating website. And this can affect your bottom line.

According to this 2013 study, more than 65 percent of patients chose to see a physician based on their online ratings. That number is likely even higher today, considering how many more people are searching for providers and health information online.

According to the authors of the 2019 study mentioned at the top of this article, the factors that had the biggest impact on a physician’s ratings were:

  • ease of making appointments,
  • patient wait time,
  • physician bedside manner, and
  • physician/staff courtesy.

It is notable that none of these factors has much to do with a physician’s medical knowledge, ability to diagnose, ethics, or even skill level (hence the eye rolling and indifference to these rating sites among physicians), but they are factors that can be changed.

You might not like it, but it might be time to find out how you are rated online. Then you can schedule a meeting in your office to start working on improving things like staff courtesy and patient wait times. You may find yourself less tempted to roll your eyes if it results in more patient referrals from the web.

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