When considering patient satisfaction scores found on third-party review sites, it is important to keep in mind that the scores may not be accurate. Ratings may be erroneously influenced by a variety of factors. This misrepresentation could have serious repercussions as individuals increasingly use these ratings to select a physician. Studies demonstrate that people generally trust the ratings as their only source of information when picking an expert in this field.
A study investigating patient satisfaction ratings published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Timothy J. Daskivich, MD, MSHPM, lead author and assistant professor at the Department of Surgery in Cedars-Sinai, emphasizes how important it is to interpret ratings correctly as patients place a great deal of trust in them. The researchers examined ratings of 212,933 providers from October 2014 to March 2017 on Healthgrades, a consumer rating website that ranks medical professionals from 1-5 stars. This data was linked to the U.S Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Physician Compare tool and ordered by specialty type. After conducting a statistical analysis to examine each provider's average satisfaction score distribution, it became apparent that ratings systems are in need of improvement throughout all specialties within the field.
Results from the research indicate that patient satisfaction ratings most often had a positive outlook and stayed within limited ranges. This means scores that seem high may be average or even low when compared to other physicians, misleading patients into believing they are selecting the best doctor. For example, if 90% of doctors in a specialty receive more than four stars on their reviews, it may suggest less-than-meaningful data.
As the public becomes more interested in online reviews and comments concerning healthcare services, this study arrives at an opportune moment. People are increasingly visiting third-party websites to get a better understanding of what physicians have to offer. Although there has been a proliferation of these third-party sites, including Healthgrades, Zocdoc, and Yelp, they often present information based on a small number of reviews and incomplete or unverified information. As a result, many health systems – such as Stanford, Cleveland Clinic, and the University of Utah – have begun posting more complete ratings and comments from their own outpatient satisfaction surveys. The tools do not measure healthcare quality, but communicate only submitted "patient satisfaction ratings," either directly from the patient or indirectly through the provider who collected patient feedback. Rather than relying only on a ratings metric, examining patient comments, where available, may be more helpful.
The study's authors suggest that third-party online review sites should be more transparent and post median star ratings for medical providers, in addition to noting their rank among peers within their specialization. For greater ease of access, they have created an interactive tool, Compare My Doc, that allows users to compare any given provider's specialty and rating with those of other specialists.
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