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AMA Says Patients Don't Use Physician Rating Sites

The American Medical Association has picked up the results of a survey showing that very few patients use online rating sites to choose their physicians.

For all the concern and mistrust over physician rating sites, recent research shows that, for now, few patients are using them to decide where to get their care.

A Harris Interactive poll commissioned by the California HealthCare Foundation found that although more than 80% of the state's adults turn to the Internet for health-related information, less than one-quarter have looked at physician ratings sites. Only 2% of those surveyed made a change in physicians based on information posted on a rating site.

The low numbers aren't really surprising. Physician ranking sites - - where they even exist - - are new and do not have the history and reputational cachet of, say, Zagat, or Consumer Reports. And rating sites are useful primarily for those who are already looking to change physicians.

For my own part, I have a regular physician and I am happy with his services, and I don't have any pressing health issues and am not planning to move my residence or change my employment anytime soon. So even though I have an interest in online physician ranking sites, I have zero need to look at one.

In contrast, my kids are constantly coming home with sniffles, coughs, cuts, bruises, bites, rashes and you name what else. Going online to do some quick research before deciding whether to set in an appointment is second nature.

Besides that, one would hope at least that the majority of information put online about licensed, practicing physicians would confirm an inquiring patient's view that the physician is a competent and trustworthy practitioner. If the rest of the oversight system is operating as it should, physicians who are not worthy of a license for whatever reason should not be available to patients to begin with.

The online rating site should really serve to point out which characteristics of a physician or the physician's practice most closely align with the patient's personal values. For example, does a patient prefer a practitioner with a curt bedside manner or one who is more affable and chatty? Will patients endure longer wait times for physicians who will spend an unplanned half hour discussing a problem, or would they rather bypass the waiting room to get their ten minutes - - but only ten minutes - - quickly?

Although AMA downplays the survey results, I find them interesting for two reasons:

According to the survey of 1,007 Californians conducted by Harris Interactive between Nov. 5, 2007, and Dec. 17, 2007, the number of people who said they had looked at physician rating sites grew from 14% in 2004 to 22% in 2007.

First, a quarter of all patients is nothing to sneeze at. Second, the 2007 numbers are a 150% increase over the 2002 numbers. If the trend continues, by 2010 the number of online users will reach 1/3 of all patients. With the proliferation of rating sites by payors, consumer groups, advocacy groups and government agencies, my guess is that we will get to 1/3 long before 2010.

Read AMA's news article here.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 24, 2008 9:24 AM.

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