Are Online Physicians Rating Websites Trustworthy?

The Internet provides you so many reviews and rating websites for each and every field. You can find reviews of movies, music, hotels & restaurants and a wide range of products and services. The health care industry has not been left behind on this either. Indeed, online physician rating websites have emerged, making it easier for people to locate doctors and specialists at the click of a button.

In a study by the University of Michigan, out of 2,136 respondents, 65% were aware of these rating websites. Interestingly only 25% of these individuals claimed to use the websites.

However, the popularity of rating websites for online physicians is growing steadily; driven in part by the rise of social networking sites and the rapid spread of the internet.

Online rating websites are particularly popular among the younger and more tech-savvy population. In fact, research estimates that 34% of young adults using these online review and rating websites for physicians.

Physician Review Websites Include Lots Of Information On Details Such As:

  • The physician’s educational background
  • The physician’s availability on e-mail
  • The physician’s knowledge of different languages.
  • The physician’s specialties
  • The physician’s certifications
  • The physician’s practicing experience

How Ratings Are Derived?

Although physician rating websites may use base their ratings on different factors, it is possible to identify 6 major dimensions from which online physicians’ ratings are derived;

  • An overall rating which refers to the patient’s general rating of the physician.
  • The physician’s communication skills
  • The physician’s accessibility including how easy it is to get an appointment.
  • Staff friendliness and professionalism.
  • State and quality of facilities.
  • Wait times

The Pros Of Online Physician Rating Websites

Rating websites for physicians have various positive views. First and foremost, they provide a wide range of information about different physicians including location, specialty, and experience at the simple click of a button.

Secondly, because these websites mostly give positive reviews and ratings, it could be an indication that patients are satisfied with the services that they are getting. This implies that the medical care industry has improved in quality.

These websites have also eased the process of looking for doctors and specialists in specific geographical locations. This has resulted in a situation where it is easier for patients to access medical care.

Trustworthiness Of Online Physician Rating Websites

The University of Michigan study on online physician rating websites also established that 43% of those who did not use the online physician websites did not trust the websites. On the other hand, 59% of this group of respondents claimed that they would rather go by word of mouth from close family and friends.

This is a clear indication that a majority of people do not think online physician rating websites to be trustworthy. Indeed, even experts are wary about trusting online reviews of doctors. There are several reasons that can prompt you to take online physician reviews with a grain of salt.

  1. First and foremost, a physicians overall score is determined by a small number of patient experiences. Some studies estimate that only 6% to 8% of patients who use online rating websites for physicians actually post reviews on those websites. The average number of reviews per doctor is more often than note, less than 3. In some cases, some doctors don’t even have reviews. The small number of reviews implies that these online physician rating websites are not accurate enough to be trusted.
  1. Most times, these physician rating websites do not verify the authenticity of the reviews or the information provided. In fact, most of these websites only require patients to sign-up with a valid e-mail address; after which they are viable to leave reviews. It is, therefore, possible for friends or family members of certain physicians to give false positive reviews. It could also provide an avenue for competitor physicians to give terrible ratings for the purpose of destabilizing their practice.

 

Some physicians have also been known to coerce their patients into signing ‘mutual privacy agreements’ in which patients agree not to review the physicians on online platforms in exchange for more stringent privacy considerations.

This is a major issue of concern for online physician review websites. This is especially so in the face of the emergence of evidence that some doctors were going as far as giving monetary incentives to patients to get positive reviews. Others even pay the websites to take down any negative reviews posted.

Even the information provided by physicians is not updated on a regular basis. Indeed, some physicians end up being classified in the wrong specialty. There have also been reports of websites providing the wrong location information. All these are indications that these websites do little to authenticate the accuracy of the information provided.

  1. Thirdly, the trustworthiness of online physician rating websites is negatively affected by the fact that there is limited legal regulation. To add on that, there is no higher authority regulating these websites.
  2. The inadequacy of formal regulation means there are no uniform rating standards nor is there a measure of trustworthiness and accuracy.This leaves room for these websites and their users to misuse the platforms. Indeed, there are some websites that even offer gift packs for giving a certain number of reviews. This form of manipulation greatly reduces the trustworthiness of these online physician review websites.
  1. Fourthly, online physician rating websites provide a lot of general information about the doctor/physician without giving any information on more detailed and more medical care related information. For example, a website may give information on the location, experience level, preferred method of communication, and availability of an obstetrician.
  2. However, the website may not have a grain of information on the success rate of the obstetrician. Simply put most online rating websites for physicians lack in detailed information particularly in regards to actual medical care as well as outcome information.

Verdict

There is no doubt that online physician rating websites are meant to enhance transparency in the medical care industry. There is also no doubt that these websites are here to stay.

Nevertheless, the fact that such sites are relatively new, and the numerous loopholes associated with such websites means that as at now, the trust factor lowers. All you need to do is proper research before relying on any website.

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