Online reviews of physicians don't equate to real-life quality of care

A physician's Yelp rating doesn't help patients find quality care, according to research conducted by ConsumerMedical. The study compared top-rated physicians on different review websites with actual performance based on medical specialty.

Results showed 62 percent of patients used online reviews to find a new doctor and 19 percent used the reviews to validate their choice before making an appointment. Researchers began by identifying the top-10-rated physicians in five specialties in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles from Yelp, Vitals and Healthgrades sites. These physicians were then compared to the highest rated physicians based on more than five billion data points covering patient readmission rates, surgical infection rates, average length of stay, procedure volume and patient outcomes collected by ConsumerMeidcal.

Results showed that only 2 percent of the top physicians on the online review sites were included as top performers when measuring quality.

"This research confirms what we have long suspected," said David Hines, CEO of ConsumerMedical. "Online patient reviews tend to reflect a patient's care experiences, such as the physician's bedside manner. While these attributes are important, they are simply not the main indicators of a physician's overall quality; sadly you can have a very kind orthopedic surgeon whose patients have hospital readmission rates that are through the roof."

When examining online patient reviews, high quality physicians are overlooked for factors like bedside manner, availability, location and punctuality. While these factors are positive, they do not measure actual quality of the physician, leading to misinformation to patients searching for the best of the best.

"Getting care from a high-quality physician can literally be a matter of life and death," said Hines. "This absence of consumer-friendly tools that help the public understand that quality matters, and that offer them meaningful quality information so they can choose a high-quality physician, is very problematic. All of this reinforces what we keep saying: health care consumers need more support to help them navigate the system and get the best care.”