Understanding Online Physician Ratings

David B. Bumpass, MD, and Julie Balch Samora, MD, PhD, MPH

Over the past decade, consumer information has been revolutionized by the explosion of websites that provide ratings and customer feedback on nearly everything, including physicians. With a few clicks, potential patients can look up a doctor and find a variety of “star” gradings, feedback posts, and biographical information, often without the physician’s submitting any data or providing permission to the website.

These developments have been met with justifiable skepticism by the medical community, based on personal experiences with online information that misrepresents background information or professional performance. However, this new medium for researching physicians is not going away. In fact, as health insurers and the federal government increase their quality data gathering and distribution, patients will have even more sources of information. The first step to maintaining an excellent online quality profile is to understand what sites are most popular, and how they create grades for physicians and their hospitals.

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