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4 in 10 Adults Over 50 Consult Online Reviews When Picking a Doctor

Topic: 4 in 10 Adults Over 50 Consult Online Reviews When Picking a Doctor

Finding a new doctor can be a daunting task. For help, many older adults turn to online reviews, a new study finds.

In fact, many people rate online reviews as highly as they would a recommendation from friends and family when picking a doctor, the new research found.

“Doctors and policymakers should know that many older adults are viewing and valuing online ratings and reviews when choosing physicians,” said researcher Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren. He’s an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

However, “the information on online physician rating sites often provides little insight into the context of health care encounters or the quality of care provided,” Kullgren added. “This can make some patients skeptical of ratings and reviews.”

Diana Zuckerman is president of the National Center for Health Research, a nonprofit think tank that conducts research on a range of health issues. She said that choosing a doctor is a complex undertaking.

“The trouble with these ratings are they’re not based on how good the physician is,” said Zuckerman, who wasn’t involved in the new study. “They’re usually based on convenience issues, like how long do you have to wait in the waiting room, how nice is the doctor, and does the doctor listen to you. These are all nice things, but they’re not really the important things.”

In the new study, Kullgren and colleagues used data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, a recurring survey of U.S. adults.

In all, the survey found that 40% of adults aged 50 to 80 have used online doctor rating sites and trust them almost as much as recommendations from family or friends for choosing a doctor. Also, online ratings were seen as more important than where a doctor went to medical school or trained.

“Many older adults now find online ratings and reviews to be very important when choosing a physician, and some individuals are more likely to use and value this information,” Kullgren noted.

Women, people with more education and those with chronic conditions were the most likely to turn to online rating sites, the investigators found.

Still, other factors besides online reviews were important in choosing a doctor. These included whether the doctor accepted their health insurance (93%) and whether the doctor was of the same race or ethnicity (2%). Online doctor ratings and reviews ranked ninth in importance.

Every patient who is choosing a physician needs to consider what information is most important to them, and understand its potential upsides and downsides, Kullgren said.

Topic Discussed: 4 in 10 Adults Over 50 Consult Online Reviews When Picking a Doctor

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