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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: Evaluating What Patients say about Doctors in Online Review Studies

Increasingly people turn to online reviews to learn more before they make a purchase. The same applies for health care, with patients sharing their experiences with physicians, which others use to make decisions on where to seek care. In a new study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Dr. Y. Alicia Hong, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health, and colleagues from Texas A&M University and the University of South Carolina, conducted a systematic review of 60 studies of patient online reviews (PORs). More than 40 percent of the studies reported average POR scores, which were mostly positive at roughly four on a one-to-five scale. However, they also found that PORs covered a relatively small number of physicians and hospitals, had widely ranging review totals and focused more on specialists, especially surgeons. Several studies noted that PORs correlated well with traditional patient surveys. Some analyses of PORs led to new domains of patient experiences not covered by traditional patient surveys. A small number of studies examined the relationship between PORs and clinical outcomes, and overall such relationship was weak.

Researchers recommended that future studies should use larger samples and focus more on rural health care providers and organizations like nursing homes that serve people underrepresented in PORs. They also identified a need for more in-depth empirical research on how PORs affect consumer behaviors and on the effects of consolidating PORs onto a handful of commercially operated review sites. The researchers noted a need for POR website operators to improve identity verification methods, better handle abusive comments and misinformation and develop a consistent scheme for rating health care providers.