Online physician ratings of specialists don’t predict “quality of care or peer assessment of clinical performance” and shouldn’t be used solely to select doctors, according to a new report by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Researchers reviewed users’ ratings for 78 physicians on five sites — Healthgrades, Yelp, Vitals, RateMDs and UCompareHealthCare — in the areas of quality of care, value of care and peer-assessed physician performance.
The report, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) last Friday, said, “Scores are consistent across platforms, suggesting that they jointly measure a latent construct that is unrelated to performance.”
Online physician ratings are a key part of consumer-driven healthcare that is supposed to put individuals in charge of their own care. The idea is that educated consumers will choose the physicians and services that are least expensive and offer the highest quality as possible.
The new study found that there was no “significant association between consumer ratings and specialty-specific performance scores, primary care physician scores and administrator scores across the multiple platforms."
“There was no association between ratings and score subdomains addressing quality or value-based care,” wrote the study authors.
Healthcare consumerism has been an industry buzzword for the past decade, but healthcare organizations are still lagging behind other industries in consumerism. A recent Kaufman, Hall & Associates report found only 8% of healthcare organizations have implemented adequate consumer-based strategies. The report said healthcare organizations understand the importance of consumerism, but they haven’t executed enough consumerism tools.
However, as the JAMIA study shows, consumerism for the sake of consumerism isn’t enough and may actually cause confusion or inaccurate conclusions about physicians.
There is also the issue of hospitals and physicians needing to manage their online reputations. A hospital or physician’s reputation can get ruined through a string of negative reviews on consumer websites.
David Williams, chief strategy officer at LEVO Health, recently offered strategies for physicians and hospitals to control online reputation. He suggested creating a dashboard in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel to begin tracking sites, URLs and comments so you have all the reviews in one place.
“Share [good] reviews across your social media channels and, if you have access, your own website," he told Healthcare Dive. “Good reviews are hard to come by, and if you are not already doing so, start a proactive testimonial program.”
For negative reviews, don’t get angry, but understand the reason for the complaints. It might have nothing to do with physicians or staff, but could be related to an issue that goes beyond the physician or hospital. Williams said promptness is important in those cases. “The quicker the response, the more likely people will be to feel ‘heard,’” he said.