Independent sites are hosted by private companies such as
Healthgrades.com, and reflect crowd sourced numerical ratings and
free-text narrative comments freely posted by online users. These sites
tend to carry reviews on a small percentage of physicians, and then only
a handful of comments per doctor at that.
Health systems sites, in
contrast, portray numerical ratings and explanatory comments collected
from standardized health system patient experience surveys. These
surveys are carried out as part of internal quality improvement programs
of hospitals and health practices.
‘Online ratings and discussions about the quality of care American doctors provide can add to their stress levels.’
Online ratings and discussions about the quality of care American
doctors provide can add to their stress levels. Patients, on the other
hand, feel that such information empowers them to make better informed
This is according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine
published by Springer. Led by Alison Holliday of Harvard Medical School
in the US, the study highlights how important it is to monitor the
impact of independent and health system physician rating websites on
both physicians and patients.
To get a sense about the views and use of such sites, Holliday's
team surveyed physicians and patients from four hospitals in a large
accountable care organization in Massachusetts in the US. Their
web-based survey was completed by 828 doctors, and a mailed survey by
One in every two doctors (53%) said that they had read online
reviews about themselves, while two in every five patients (39%)
used the web to look up comments about their doctors. It was a more
popular practice among younger people, women, and those with a college
In general, doctors were less supportive than patients of sharing
data publicly. They trusted information on health system websites more,
while independent sites were the preferred go-to source for patients.
"Patients may lack trust in health system websites due to concerns
regarding bias, as these publish reviews regarding their own
physicians," says Holliday. "Health systems seeking to publish patient
experience survey data will therefore need to engage patients in their
trust of what is very likely a new and complicated data source to them."
It was found that online ratings and comments place an extra weight
on doctors' shoulders. The majority (78%) surveyed noted that the
possibility of negative online comments increases their job stress.
Among physicians, 46% thought the practice could harm
Patients were more supportive of making in-house health system
patient experience data available publicly. One in every four patients
(29%) surveyed, however, said that their comments might be less
candid if they knew beforehand that these would become public knowledge