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The websites could make it difficult for patients to differentiate between physicians.
A majority of U.S. consumers report that online reviews are either important or very important when choosing a physician and just over half report that they have chosen not to see a physician because of review content.
And a new analysis published in JMIR Publications revealed that the lack of variation in star ratings on health system websites could make it difficult for individuals to differentiate between clinicians.
It also found that health systems remove offensive comments and that there were fewer negative comments on health system websites (12.8 percent) than commercial physician-rating websites (35.5 percent) — which are designed similarly to websites that review restaurants and hotels.
Due to reports that commercial physician websites are difficult to use and have few reviews per physician, hospitals and health systems across the U.S. have compiled and reported physician-level ratings and comments from the Consumer Assessment of healthcare Providers and Systems surveys.
The research team looked at the prevalence and content of the websites reporting the data and compared it with commercial physician-rating websites.
The team identified health system websites that were active between June 1 and 30, 2016 and posted clinician reviews. Then, the team randomly selected 140 clinicians and extracted the number of star ratings and narrative comments.
Of the 42 health systems, all of them published composite start ratings and 33 (79 percent) published narrative comments. A majority (64 percent) said that they excluded narratives deemed offensive.
A majority of the 140 clinicians had composite scores listed, with 87 percent having star ratings and 81.4 percent having narrative reviews. The median was 4.8 out of five stars, and no clinician had a score less than 4.2.
In an earlier study of 600 physicians from three geographically diverse U.S. cities, the team collected more than 1,800 narrative reviews from 28 different commercial physician-rating websites. Researchers conducted an analysis of a random sample set of 214 comments and compared the results to the analysis of comments from the health systems’ websites.
Commercial rating websites had more “clinician communication and personal skills” positive comments, more positive “clinician technical skills” comments and more “extremely positive” comments.
Health system websites had more “patient care experience comments.”
The authors suggest that due to the narrow range of star ratings — a majority between 4.7 to 4.9 out of 5 — it could make it difficult for patients to differentiate between clinicians using only star ratings on health systems’ websites.
Health systems’ websites have the potential to provide patients with information about the experience of care with clinicians, but the authors suggest the sites might require improvements.
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