New study shows online reviews stressful for doctors

Research shows that online physician rating surveys can be stressful for doctors, but empowering for patients.
By Amy Wallace  |  Feb. 2, 2017 at 1:10 PM
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Feb. 2 (UPI) -- A study from Harvard Medical School measured the impact of physician rating websites on both doctors and their patients.

The study found that while online physician rating surveys can make patients feel empowered to make more informed healthcare decisions, it can have adverse effects on physicians by adding to their stress levels.

Healthcare rating websites are typically hosted by private companies and use crowd sourced numerical ratings and comment sections for online users. These privately run online rating sites like Healthgrades.com usually cover only a small percentage of physicians and provide a few comments per provider.

Physician rating websites run by health systems give numerical ratings and comments from standardized health system patient experience surveys as part of internal quality improvement programs.

The study surveyed 828 physicians and 494 patients from four hospitals in a large accountable care organization in Massachusetts.

Results showed that 53 percent of doctors said they read online reviews about themselves and 39 percent of patients used websites to find information about doctors.

Doctors reported trusting information on health system websites over private health review sites and were less supportive of sharing data online than patients were.

Researchers found that 78 percent of doctors surveyed said the possibility of negative online comments added to their job stress and 46 percent said online doctor ratings could actually harm physician-patient relationships.

"Patients may lack trust in health system websites due to concerns regarding bias, as these publish reviews regarding their own physicians," Alison Holliday of Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "Health systems seeking to publish patient experience survey data will therefore need to engage patients in their trust of what is very likely a new and complicated data source to them."

The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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