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Beware Flaws in Online Physician Rating Sites

Doug Desjardins, February 28, 2013

Physicians respond
Another recent study conducted by the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) found that physicians consider the rating systems questionable at best, primarily because many sites seem to focus on experiences not related to patient outcomes and other indicators of skill and proficiency.

The ACPE study is based on 730 responses to a 21-question survey that researchers received from ACPE members in late 2012. The majority of respondents (55%) work at health systems or individual hospitals and 20% are employed by medical groups. When asked to give their opinion of online physician rating sites, only 12% of respondents said the sites are helpful and should be made more available while 26% considered them "a nuisance" that provide no benefit to patients who use them.

"Healthcare, like most all other industries, has clearly entered an era where measurements and reporting have increased importance," Peter Angood, MD, CEO of the ACPE, said in a statement. "This important new survey illustrates the strong concern among physician leaders about the quality and integrity of current reporting strategies and the data they are based upon."

The survey found that 69% of physicians had checked their online ratings. Of those respondents, 39% said they agreed with their ratings, while 19% didn't agree and 43% partially agreed with the findings. In a related question, some physicians were also skeptical of ratings compiled by organizations such as The Joint Commission and the National Committee for Quality Assurance. While most physicians (41%) said they were neutral about the rating systems, 29% said they were helpful and 14% described them as "a waste of time."

The study also included comments from respondents about the rating systems. One respondent said the ratings "are not very accurate" and that "the small sample can give a poor quality physician four stars and an excellent physician half a star." Another described the ratings as "a good idea in theory" but expressed frustration that "they allow angry people to do a lot of damage with no option for us to know what the issue is or how to address it."

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