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Online doctor ratings used less: Survey

– Doctor ratings are less popular than those of toasters, cars and movies when it comes to online consumer sites. That’s according to a survey that found most adults hadn’t checked online physician reviews – and most said a conveniently located office and accepting patients’ health insurance was more important.

Still, the sites do appear to be swaying opinions. About a third of patients who viewed online sites sought out or avoided physicians based on their ratings.

The findings come from a nationally representative Internet-based survey of 2,137 adults. Results were published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The results suggest that online doctor ratings have gained popularity since earlier surveys. That’s a concern, since there’s no way to know whether a review is real or fake, or what might have motivated the reviewer, said lead author Dr. David Hanauer, a pediatrician and associate professor at the University of Michigan.

More than one-third of those surveyed had checked out online reviews for movies, restaurants, appliances or electronics, and more than 1 in 4 viewed online car ratings. But less than 1 in 5 said they had viewed online physician ratings.

Consumer reviews of doctors can be found on dozens of online sites, including some that only rate doctors and others like Yelp that cover a panoply of goods and services.

Hanauer questioned whether doctors should be subject to “crowdsourced” reviews like other commodities. He said doctors risk getting bad reviews for sound medical advice simply because patients don’t agree with it. For example, antibiotics only fight bacteria but parents often want pediatricians to prescribe them for colds or other viruses. Doctors’ refusals might result in a bad review, he said.

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