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How important are online reviews for doctors?

by AirTalk

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A doctor at the Accident and Emergency department of the recently opened Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital on February 7, 2011 in Birmingham, England. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It’s grown increasingly customary to check Yelp reviews before trying a new restaurant, browse Angie’s List before hiring a plumber, and now, to read up on doctors before a check up.

Multiple sites, including HealthGrades, ZocDoc, and others host reviews of medical practitioners, and according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a quarter of the population uses online physician reviews to help choose a doctor. But are the reviews accurate?

Dr. David Hanauer, lead author of the study, says that while ⅔ of people are aware of the online reviews and a quarter read them, only 5% of patients actually write reviews of their doctors.

The result? A potentially unbalanced portrait of practitioners.

Is it possible that as online reviews become more mainstream, analysis of physicians may be aggregated into one review site? Would the AMA or insurance groups take responsibility for hosting reviews? And even then, would it be effective for patients with limited knowledge of the medical field to review expert physicians? Do you trust online reviews of doctors?


Dr. David Hanauer, M.D.,  Associate Professor, University of Michigan Medical School, author of Public Awareness, Perception, and Use of Online Physician Rating Sites, published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association


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