Study: Website Ratings Influence Parental Selection of Pediatric Doctors

According to the findings of a new University of Michigan study, today’s younger parents are strongly inclined to let online scores for physicians influence their selection of a doctor for their children.

Word of mouth, however, still tops online reviews by a strong 2-to-1 margin.

50% of parents say that word of mouth is very important when selecting a doctor for their children, compared with 25% of parents who say that doctor rating websites are very important.

According to the findings of the field poll, mothers are more likely than fathers, and parents under 30 more likely than parents 30 and over, to say that online doctor ratings are “very important.”

Among parents that have sought information on doctor ratings, 30% have selected a doctor based on a good rating.

“More and more families are going online not only to find out about medical conditions but also in their search for the right doctor for their child. What we found in the poll was that the perceived importance of online ratings appears to differ widely based on factors such as parent age and gender,” says Dr. David A. Hanauer, a primary care pediatrician and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at U-M.

“These data suggest that younger families are more likely to rely on online ratings, which means over time we’d expect the use of these websites will keep increasing,” Dr. Hanauer adds.

The authors of the report, however, aren’t necessarily endorsing online reviews as the ideal criteria for selecting a physician.

“Importantly, there is currently no oversight or regulation for rating websites that collect ‘crowdsourced’ information about doctors,” observes Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P. “It is hard to verify the reliability of the ratings or whether they are subject to manipulation. But it is worth noting that word of mouth from family and friends is not regulated, either. On the other hand, those sources of information may be perceived as more directly accountable by parents seeking the information, and therefore more trustworthy.”

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