Grapevine beats online for picking child’s PCP

February 25, 2013

When it comes to selecting a primary care physician (PCP) for their child, most parents depend on word-of-mouth recommendations rather than online ratings for making a final decision, according to a new national poll.

When it comes to selecting a primary care physician (PCP) for their child, most parents depend on word-of-mouth recommendations rather than online ratings for making a final decision, according to the latest University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Researchers asked a national sample of parents with 1 or more children aged from birth to 17 years about the factors that are important for selecting a PCP. Accepting parents’ medical insurance ranked highest on the list at 92%, followed by convenience of the office location (65%) and the physician’s years of experience (52%).

Fifty percent of parents said they made their final decision after talking to family and friends, compared with 40% who decided after a referral from another doctor and with 25% who selected a doctor with good ratings on a Web site.

Mothers (30%) were more likely than fathers (19%) and parents younger than 30 years (44%) were more likely than parents aged 30 years and older (21%) to say that online ratings were very important. Nearly one-third of parents who went online to check ratings said that they selected a doctor on the basis of good reviews. Likewise, nearly one-third reported avoiding a certain doctor on the basis of bad reviews. Among parents who had never looked at online doctor reviews, 43% said they would not trust the ratings on these Web sites.

The poll suggests that younger parents may be more comfortable with accessing online reviews in general, and this was reflected in their higher use of ratings Web sites.

Currently, there is no oversight or regulation for Web sites that collect information about physicians and their practices, according to the poll, and there can be issues of trust regarding the reliability of the ratings and the positive or negative comments posted. In the same respect, word of mouth is not regulated, but parents may perceive recommendations from family members and friends to be more trustworthy when it comes to making a decision about a health care provider for their children.