According to a report in Modern Healthcare, a new study suggests consumers assess physicians based on interpersonal aspects of care that don’t significantly correlate to positive health outcomes.

The Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association looked at the online physician ratings and reviews of 78 physicians across eight specialties at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, comparing consumer opinions from five popular ratings sites – including HealthGrades and Yelp – with performance metrics like 30-day readmissions, length of stay and peer review scores.

Consumer ratings were consistent across websites, indicating that patients assess quality similarly, but they didn’t reflect the positive or negative performance metrics of the physicians, the study found. For example, only about a third of poorly performing physicians had poor consumer ratings.

Study authors attribute the disconnect to the fact that consumers don’t, or can’t, assess clinical performance. Rather, they assess doctors on interpersonal aspects of care, such as friendliness and responsiveness to questions.

They cautioned consumers against using only online reviews to choose physicians, just as consumers shouldn’t rely on Google searches of their symptoms. Consumers should also augment what they find online with recommendations from their primary care doctors as well as independent sources like The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Physician Compare website. Consumers should also understand that online review sites are intended to assess patient experience, not clinical performance, the study authors say.

Healthgrades Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Pearson believes the site’s users understand the ratings don’t assess the quality of care and use the site as just one element of their decision-making process when choosing a physician, Modern Healthcare reported.

The article also quotes a representative from Vitals, another online doctor review site, saying that patient reviews are a valuable piece of consumers’ decision-making process.

  • A new study suggests consumer ratings of physicians from online review sites don’t reflect clinical performance.
  • Consumers rate doctors on friendliness, responsiveness to their questions and personal expectations.
  • If consumers understand that online patient reviews reflect only the interpersonal side of care, then consumer ratings can be a valuable part of their decision-making process when searching for a physician.


Read the Modern Healthcare article here and the study here.