One-third of Americans today use online review rating to choose their physician though they still consider insurance acceptance and convenience more important factors, a new study finds.
Initially, close proximity was the only determining factor people used to choose their physicians. This has changed in more than one ways, according to the findings of a new study by University of Michigan researchers.
Nowadays, people have turned to the Internet while choosing their doctors. A survey published in the most recent addition of the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that two-thirds of Americans were aware of online reviews and ratings of doctors by other patients and about one-third of the population use this information while selecting their doctor.
The survey revealed that 19 percent of respondents said they considered doctor rating websites "very important" in their search for a physician. A whopping 89 percent of respondents ranked "accepts my health insurance" as "very important." While 59 percent said a convenient office location also was "very important."
"Online rating sites have gained popularity, and it's common for people to use them to look up reviews on things like cars, movies or restaurants," David A. Hanauer, M.D., a primary care pediatrician and clinical associate professor of pediatrics at U-M said in a statement. "More recently, doctors have become the subject of ratings. And this research shows that awareness is growing about those online doctor ratings."
Dr. Hanauer also noted that even though many Americans didn't say that online ratings were the most important factor while choosing a physician, 35 percent of those who sought ratings in the past year had chosen a doctor due to good ratings and 37 percent had avoided a doctor because of bad ratings.
"Our study indicates that the public is using online physician ratings to make important decisions for their healthcare, despite persistent questions about how trustworthy these rating sites are," Hanauer said.
Though the number of people using online ratings and reviews has increased over the past few years, a mere 5 percent admitted to posting a review online. According to the ones who did go online to post a review of a doctor they had used, most said that people who depend on online ratings may not be getting a balanced picture of a doctor's service.
A similar poll previously conducted by the National Poll on Children's Health found that 44 percent of parents under the age of 30 are more likely than parents over the age of 30 to think online doctor rating websites are important while choosing a health care specialist.
"These may seem useful, but no one is regulating this 'crowdsourced' information about doctors. There's no way to verify its reliability, so online ratings may not currently be the best resource for patients," Hanauer said.
The survey, done in 2012, questioned a randomized group of 2,137 adults from the GfK's web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, which is highly representative of the U.S. population.
The research was funded by the University of Michigan Health System.