Online Physician Reviews – Buyer Beware

UrgentCareAbout a quarter of parents have used online reviews to choose their child’s pediatrician, according to a study published this week.  Here’s the problem with online reviews: there’s no guarantee they are real.  Online physician reviews are becoming powerful, and like anything with power they are being abused.

I know physicians who pay $499 per month to get automatically notified when people post negative reviews about them on online sites.  Then you have to pay another $50 just to have the right to respond to negative reviews.  Negative reviews seem to come from nowhere– from people who were never patients.  One physician had several negative reviews from a patient he never saw.  Physicians can sue negative reviewers for slander, but only if that person is a real person and uses a real name.

Review sites have an incentive to gather negative reviews of physicians, because the physicians will pay to monitor the sites and pay to respond to the reviews.  No one verifies who is actually making these reviews.

Positive reviews are rather meaningless, also.  Any physician or health care corporation can put in fake positive reviews about their patients.  Clearly, they have an incentive to do this, but no one would ever admit to it.

Doctor rating sites often list outdated info, too.  For example, HealthGrades says that I am accepting new patients.  I don’t.  I never have.  I am a pediatric hospitalist without a private practice.  Another site lists me as a neonatologist.  I’m not.  I never have been.  And I have to pay big bucks if I want to change any of the inaccurate information they have listed about me.  Ask any doctor– is the data listed about you accurate?  Tell me if you find any doctor who says it is.

So a quarter of parents are picking their child’s physician based, at least partially, on inaccurate online reviews.  What is this doing to our health care?  It doesn’t help patients, and it just raises costs for physicians, which we pass on to our patients, insurance companies, and the government.

There are better uses of our healthcare dollars.

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