Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Physician Rating Websites Rely on Few Patient Reviews, Loyola Study Finds

MAYWOOD, Ill. - Millions of Americans read physician ratings on websites such as Healthgrades.com, but such ratings are based on scores from an average of only 2.4 patients, a Loyola University Medical Center study has found.

The study of 500 randomly selected urologists found that 79.6 percent of physicians were rated by at least one of the 10 free physician-review websites that researchers examined. The report stated that 86 percent of physicians had positive ratings, with 36 percent receiving highly positive ratings. Healthgrades had the most physician ratings.

Results were published online ahead of print in the Journal of Urology.
"Consumers should be cautious when they look at these ratings," said first author Chandy Ellimoottil, MD. "Our findings suggest that consumers should take these ratings with a grain of salt."

Ellimoottil explained that because physicians typically receive so few ratings, a highly negative or highly positive score from just one or two patients could skew the physician's rating. "These sites have potential to help inform consumers," Ellimoottil said. "But the sites need more reviews to make them more reliable."
Half of Americans who go online for health information look up their providers and 40 percent use physician-review websites. But there have been few studies about such websites.

Ellimoottil, senior author Ahmer Farooq, DO, and colleagues randomly selected 500 of the nation's 9,940 urologists for inclusion in the study, including 471 male and 29 female urologists from 39 states. On each website, the number of reviews per physician ranged from 0 to 64, with the average 2.4.

Researchers found no statistically significant difference in the median number of reviews when gender, region and city size were compared.

Healthgrades posted reviews on 54 percent of physicians, followed in order by Vitals.com, 45 percent of physicians; Avvo.com, 39 percent; RateMDs.com, 25 percent; Drscore, 13 percent; Revolutionhealth.com, 5 percent; Kudzu.com and Healthcarereviews.com, 1 percent; and Zocdoc.com and Yelp.com, less than 1 percent.

Researchers also conducted a qualitative analysis of written comments posted on a single website, Vitals.com. Comments were rated extremely negative (such as "He needs to retire as he can barely walk"); negative; neutral; positive; or extremely positive (such as "One of the best checkups in a long time!!"). Of these 3 percent were extremely negative, 22 percent were negative, 22 percent were neutral, 39 percent were positive and 14 percent were extremely positive.

Farooq is an instructor and Ellimoottil is a resident in the Department of Urology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Other co-authors, all in Loyola's Department of  Urology, are Marcus L. Quek, MD, associate professor; Kristin Greco, MD, resident; and Alissa Hart, medical student.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.