CAN ONLINE DOCTOR RATINGS BE TRUSTED?
Online ratings make it easier to choose which phone, car, or dishwasher to buy, but are they equally useful when it comes to picking a doctor— or learning about the one you have? Not always, according to a University of Texas at Dallas study focused on chronic disease care.
When a patient has a curable problem—strep throat treated with antibiotics, for example—they will clearly know whether their medical care was successful and may be more likely to give a satisfactory assessment online. But when it comes to ongoing diseases such as diabetes, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Copd)—which aren’t cured but rather are managed—the signs that a doctor is doing a good job are less obvious.
As you’d expect, then, when the researchers investigated how patients with COPD fared with various doctors over a period of ten years, star ratings on websites didn’t line up very well with more objective ways of measuring the quality of their care, such as the rate of patients who developed complications or needed to visit an emergency room.
Some of the information written in online reviews might be reliable—observations about a doctor’s friendliness or the cleanliness of their office. These things matter too. But when it comes to medical outcomes for chronic diseases, you can’t depend too much on what you see on the web.