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    Doctor review websites are a growing factor for patients choosing providers

    Consumers are using review websites, such as Yelp, to compare restaurants, salons—and physicians. More patients are aware of websites that rate physicians, and they make a growing impact on which doctor they pick, according to a new survey released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

    Nearly 20% of patients say that physicians’ ratings on websites are very important, and 40% said the websites are somewhat important, when looking for a primary care physician. Of those who used the web to search for physicians, 35% say they picked a doctor based on good ratings, while 27% reported avoiding those with bad ratings.

    There were patients who don’t see the web as a reliable source for selecting a doctor—43% of those who don’t use online physician rating websites thought the information was unreliable.

    If you Google a physician’s name, a handful of popular websites might pop up, including HealthGrades.com, RateMDs.com, or Vitals.com. They offer physician ratings in the form of stars or percentages, based off of patient satisfaction reviews or algorithms that weigh certain patient experiences over others. Some charge a fee for patients to access the full reviews.

    The 'Yelpification’ of healthcare has been discouraging to some physicians because patients may confuse them with other doctors with similar names or listings may give out-of-date contact information. Also, physicians who receive poor ratings don’t have a chance to refute any of the claims. According to a ZocDoc survey released in October 2013, 85% of physicians read their online reviews.

    The JAMA survey found that patients still overwhelmingly pick their primary care physicians based off of whether they accept their health insurance, as 89% of patients say that is very important. Convenient location (59%), physician’s years of experience (46%), practice reputation (44%), word of mouth (38%), and physician referral (34%) all ranked higher in patient importance than website ratings.

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    • ClaudioTeri
      My name is Claudio Teri and I am the CEO of DrSocial ltd. My company collects and displays doctor reviews in the US through the website www.drsocial.org and I would like to highlight some parts of your article that I found really interesting. The number of reviews is the most important element for the correct functionality of a doctor reviews website. Business model associated with review based websites works well with big data. Once you have lots of reviews about a doctor you can identify patterns in professional behaviour that you will not spot with few. For this reason it should be a very positive change if doctors will actually start recommending patients to write about their experience. Hotel and restaurant owners on Tripadvisor have understood that a review is a customer feedback that can improve quality of service. An anonymous review written in good faith is a great source of information for the practice or the MD to understand if there are any issues with their service. You have to take in the equation that you might find reviews of unhappy patients that were expecting to receive certain prescriptions and they didn't because they were not the right ones and the doctor did right not to prescribe them. You may also find unsatisfied customers on Tripadvisor expecting to much from the hotel they have chosen. But then again, misleading can become a tool of communication instead of a cold judgement. Giving the opportunity to the doctor to publicly respond to the review allows him to clarify how certain medicines should only be prescribed to fight certain pathologies or similar topics. This way the doctor shows that he stands by his decision, gives a motivation for it, adds valuable content for future users and credibility for himself. Another important element that should be considered is the gratuity of the service. Everyone should be allowed to sign up a free account, either doctors or patients. The service in itself has such an important value for the community that it should not be fair to ask money in order to understand which doctor can help you in a better way. Doctors, on the other side, should not pay because they should have the right to respond to the review and update his profile data for free. There can be some sort of upgraded accounts for doctors who want to be featured, however a standard free account should be available. Website can monetize with additional services or banner ads might be developed but its crucial for these sites' success to keep the environment free. I believe that review websites will become a strong asset in the healthcare community during the next few years and it is important to plan how much we want to help the healthcare system. DrSocial for example, decided to donate $1 to the Colon Cancer Alliance for every sign up on our website: http://www.ccalliance.org/help... These type of experiments in converting marketing costs into medical research funds should be part of a health related site. Ongoing cuts to research funds can be mitigated through a wise allocation of resources. My conclusion is that I am happy to see patients more and more engaged in this changing process and it would be a great improve if doctors will take an active part too. Best Regards Claudio
    • JasonHughes
      Very nice post. As a patient, I also frequently check doctors' ratings whenever I have to visit them for anything. However, I believe the real reason why I feel satisfied is the kind of services they are offering and what technology are they using. Being a technology addict myself, I need to make sure they have the latest and the best equipment, and services on offer. Patient portals, for example are a great way through which I can keep a track of my health. My physician uses this great portal by CureMD (www.curemd.com/patient-portal.asp) which really keeps me in the loop about my health. You guys might want to check it out and see how it can save you plenty of time wherever you are.

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