New Research Finds Popular Online Doctor Review Sites Don’t Help Patients Find High-Quality Doctors

PEMBROKE, Mass. (June 7, 2017) – New research conducted by ConsumerMedical, a leading health care decision support and concierge company, has found that the vast majority of top-rated specialty physicians on YELP, Vitals and Healthgrades  aren’t the highest ranked physicians when it comes to examining actual performance data related to their medical specialty.

ConsumerMedical identified the top 10 ranked physicians across five common specialties in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles on the three popular patient review websites. They then compared these lists to a list of the 10 physicians with the highest quality scores (by specialty) in these same cities. The second list was generated by ConsumerMedical using more than 5 billion data points at the procedure level that measure physician performance on variables such as: patient readmission rates; surgical infection rates; average length of stay; procedure volume; and patient outcomes. Only 2 percent of physicians who showed up as top 10 ranked on the popular websites also showed up as top performers when examining actual quality metrics.

“This research confirms what we have long suspected,” explains David Hines, CEO of ConsumerMedical. “Online patient reviews tend to reflect a patient’s care experiences, such as the physician’s bedside manner.  While these attributes are important, they are simply not the main indicators of a physician’s overall quality; sadly you can have a very kind orthopedic surgeon whose patients have hospital readmission rates that are through the roof.”

Online patient reviews typically focus on attributes like a physician’s bedside manner and availability, as well as other factors like the location of the office and punctuality in scheduling. Several studies show that most consumers aren’t fully aware that physician quality matters and varies significantly depending on specific skills, experience, and a variety of other factors.

“Getting care from a high-quality physician can literally be a matter of life and death,” says Hines. “This absence of consumer-friendly tools that help the public understand that quality matters, and that offer them meaningful quality information so they can choose a high-quality physician, is very problematic.”

A growing number of Americans are using online patient review sites to find a physician. For example, a recent survey suggested that 62 percent of patients use online reviews as the first step to find a new doctor, while 19 percent use online reviews to validate their choice before making a first appointment.

“All of this reinforces what we keep saying: health care consumers need more support to help them navigate the system and get the best care,” says Hines.

About ConsumerMedical – ConsumerMedical is a leading health care decision support and concierge company serving approximately 2 million individuals through some of the nation’s largest employers, health plans and private exchanges. The company has been serving patients and payers for over 20 years. As a Medical Ally, ConsumerMedical guides participants throughout their health care journey with compassionate, high-touch support and deep clinical expertise. ConsumerMedical offers a fully integrated suite of solutions including Medical Decision Support, Surgery Decision Support, Expert Medical Opinion, Claims Advocacy and more, helping individuals and families navigate the health care system while improving outcomes and reducing costs. ConsumerMedical’s results have been validated continuously by independent actuaries. More information is available at www.consumermedical.com.