How do online doc ratings affect parents’ choice?


Online ratings of physicians strongly influence how parents choose a physician for their children, a new study reports.

Online ratings of physicians strongly influence how parents choose a physician for their children and could nudge the doctor-patient relationship in a more consumer-based direction, a new study reports.

The cross-sectional, nationally representative survey analyzed responses from 1619 parents who were asked whether they would follow a neighbor’s recommendation of a primary care physician for their children based on 3 different vignettes: neighbor recommendation alone and recommendation accompanied by a positive or negative online review.

Parents were significantly more likely to choose a physician recommended by a neighbor if the doctor also received positive online reviews and significantly less likely to choose a neighbor-recommended physician if the doctor also received negative online ratings. Seventy-four percent of parents said they were aware of online sites that rate physicians, and 28% had used such a site to choose a physician for their child.

Online physician review sites play a growing role in how parents choose healthcare providers for their children and could transform the doctor-patient relationship into a more “consumer-provider” interaction, the authors of the study conclude. Parents of children aged younger than 18 years tend to be more familiar and comfortable with Internet-based information sources than other adults, they observe, so online rating sites for children’s physicians may “serve as the leading edge for public incorporation of online physician ratings in general.”

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A commentary accompanying the study outlines a couple of lessons for pediatricians: Like it or not, the Internet has made them part of a wider public conversation, which they can’t control. They need to “play an active role in shaping what parents understand about them in the online space” by telling their own story with strong health content and dialogue rather than seeing themselves as potential victims of others’ opinions. Finally, pediatricians “should heed the data presented and recognize that the care they provide, for better or worse, has the potential to follow them.”

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