The pros and cons of physician review sites

Most patients are on them. You should at least monitor them.

Many patients use physician rating sites when considering a new doctor or practice. Popular sites include Vitals, Angie’s List, and HealthGrades. These sites allow patients to post reviews of doctors based on their experiences from recent visits, and it shares physician qualifications.

Patients are reading reviews before scheduling appointments, much like consumers read reviews of washing machines and shoes before they make a purchase. This is just one of the ways that patients today are becoming “healthcare consumers.” Some people like these physician review sites because it allows them to reach beyond their immediate circle of friends for word-of-mouth referrals and helps them to make informed decisions. However, some people believe that these review sites do more harm than good.

In “Why Rating Your Doctor Is Bad For Your Health,” Falkenberg explains that the problem with physician review sites is that patients will write a negative review if the doctor doesn’t give them exactly what they want, but what the patient wants and what the physician believes is right, isn’t always the same. Physicians try to combat negative reviews because their salaries and Medicare reimbursement are increasingly dependent on their patient satisfaction. This can lead to physicians overprescribing or over testing to ensure positive reviews.

However, this over testing can come at a cost for the patient. Falkenberg shared a study conducted in February 2012 by UC Davis that found that the most satisfied patients spent the most on health care and prescription drugs, and were more likely to die due to allergic reactions or complications from unnecessary drugs and operations.

What do you think? Are physician review sites helping us or hurting us?

To learn more about physician review sites and online reputation, read our issue of Protocol titled, “Socializing Medicine.”

RELATED: Learn why transforming your health care communication is more critical now than ever before. Attend the only one-day summit specifically for health care communicators.

Caitlin Mooney is the marketing manager at Smith & Jones, a health care marketing agency that specializes in hospital systems and large physician practices. Learn more here.

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