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

According to a 2019 study evaluating 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 causes of some of those eye rolls — 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 (7 percent) who actually leave reviews, even fewer leave bad reviews, let alone scathing writeups. In fact, most reviews are positive, with an average rating of eight out of 10.

Unfortunately, one bad post in a small pool of reviews can be disproportionately amplified by the power of the internet and the popularity of these websites. 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 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 U.S. Most sites used a star rating system and collected 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 U.S. 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 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 above, the following factors had the biggest impact on a physician’s ratings:

  • ease of making appointments
  • patient wait time
  • physician bedside manner
  • 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. They are, however, factors that can be changed.

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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