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Survey Data of Older Patients Shows Importance of Online Reviews When Selecting a Doctor

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   April 12, 2021

The survey data compares importance of online reviews to word-of-mouth recommendations.

When selecting a physician, online reviews are considered very important nearly as much as word-of-mouth recommendations among older patients, according to survey data.

Online reviews have become an important element of consumerism in healthcare. Online reviews of physicians are available on healthcare provider websites and commercial websites such as Google and Yelp.

The survey data of adults aged 50 to 80 years, which was reported this week in Annals of Internal Medicine, was collected from the University of Michigan National Poll on Health Aging. The survey data includes the following key points.

  • In selecting a doctor, online physician ratings and reviews were considered very important among 20.3% of survey respondents
     
  • In selecting a doctor, word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends were considered very important among 23.0% of survey respondents
     
  • Where a physician trained or attended medical school was considered very important when selecting a physician for 17.4% of survey respondents
     
  • The top three factors that older adults rated as very important when selecting a physician were whether the physician accepted their health insurance (93.0% of survey respondents), how long it takes to get an appointment (61.2%), and convenience of office location (58.7%).
     
  • The prevalence of use of online ratings and reviews was higher among women (48.2%) versus men (37.1%)
     
  • The prevalence of use of online ratings and reviews was higher among survey respondents with a bachelor's degree or higher (49.0%) versus respondents with high school or less (33.2%)
     
  • The prevalence of use of online ratings and reviews was higher among survey respondents with at least one chronic condition (45.2%) versus respondents with no chronic conditions (38.5%)

When selecting a physician, the relative importance of online reviews and ratings compared to word-of-mouth recommendations for older adults is highly significant, the lead author of the survey report told HealthLeaders.

"This finding is very significant, as word of mouth recommendations from family and friends have historically been one of the most important sources of information about doctors. Further, we found that online ratings and reviews were considered very important more often than other parts of a physician's background, such as where they trained or attended medical school," said Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH, an associate professor of internal medicine at University of Michigan.

Kullgren also speculated on the prevalence of use of online ratings and reviews by survey respondents' gender, education, and whether they had a chronic condition.

"Because women often play an essential role in healthcare decisions for their families and frequently have unique healthcare needs, it is perhaps not surprising that they would use online ratings and reviews differently than men. It is possible that people with higher levels of education are more engaged in decisions about their healthcare and thus more likely to use available information about physicians. People with chronic conditions often need more healthcare and need to see more physicians longitudinally than people without chronic conditions. As a result, patients with chronic conditions may have more opportunities to choose physicians as well as a strong incentive to select physicians that will best meet their needs over the long-term," he said.

Related: How IU Health Manages Online Ratings and Reviews to Better Serve Patients

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

In selecting a doctor, online physician ratings and reviews were considered very important among 20.3% of survey respondents.

In selecting a doctor, word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends were considered very important among 23.0% of survey respondents.

Where a physician trained or attended medical school was considered very important when selecting a physician for 17.4% of survey respondents.

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