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Parents Suspect Unreliability of Online Physician Ratings

ANN ARBOR, MI – If you’re worried about negative online ratings, here’s some good news: the majority of parents in a recent poll said they suspect online ratings are unreliable or even made up.

In fact, a recent C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health suggests that more than two-thirds of parents believe some online doctor reviews are fake. Slightly fewer opine that there are not enough ratings to make a good decision, while more than half express concern that physicians are influencing the ratings.

"Online rating sites are becoming an increasingly common and potentially influential source of information for parents as they choose a doctor," explained lead author David Hanauer, MD. "Websites reviewing doctors are readily available, but concerns about how trustworthy they are may be preventing parents from using them broadly."

In responding to the poll – a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research, LLC, for C.S. Mott during January 2016 to a randomly selected stratified group of 1,407 adult parents with at least one child age 0-17 – nearly one third of parents report looking at online doctor ratings for themselves or a family member over the past year.

Mothers were more likely to have visited the websites than fathers – 36% vs.22% – and two thirds of those looking at online ratings said they either chose or avoided doctors based on what they read.

Interestingly, most of the parents, 87%, who selected a doctor because of ratings reported that the online ratings accurately reflected their subsequent experiences.

Older parents expressed more concerns about online doctor ratings than younger ones: Of parents age 30 and older, 71% were concerned about the possibility of fake reviews compared to 59% under the age of 30.

"People are regularly using online reviews to help make decisions about cars, movies and restaurants. It's no surprise that more websites are allowing patients to publicly share their experiences about their doctors as well," Hanauer said in a University of Michigan press release.

"Doctor rating sites have the potential to help make the patient-physician relationship more service-oriented,” he added. “In order for online rating sites to become a more accepted and useful tool, doctors will need to be more engaged in the process, in ways that assure that ratings are authentic."