When looking for a doctor, many consumers turn to websites that post physician ratings and reviews. A study at Hospital for Special Surgery found a discrepancy between doctor reviews provided by hospital websites and those posted on independent physician rating sites such as Healthgrades.com and Vitals.com.
Investigators found a much higher number of reviews, and more favorable physician ratings overall, on the hospital websites; the research was presented this week at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
Consumer-driven healthcare, and an increasing emphasis on quality measures, have encouraged patient engagement in the rating of doctors and the care they provide. Independent commercial physician rating websites such as Healthgrades.com have become a popular outlet for patients to express their satisfaction, or lack thereof.
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A number of hospitals and medical practices have also started to publicly report the results of their own patient satisfaction surveys, which are often administered by a third party such as Press Ganey.
The study included 12 hospitals or medical practices that were publicly reporting patient satisfaction data collected for their orthopedic surgeons as of August 2016. Investigators identified 415 orthopedic surgeons with online patient ratings at institutions such as Northwell Health, Cleveland Clinic and Duke University, among others.
The hospital surveys were administered at the time of the office visit or sent to randomly selected patients by email or regular mail. Independent third parties experienced in the creation and evaluation of healthcare surveys were used by most hospitals to gather the information.
Patient response rates ranged from 18 percent to 30 percent. Most institutions required a minimum of 30 ratings within the past 12 to 18 months for the physician's ratings to be made public.
Most of the institutions had a stated policy of publishing all physician ratings, including negative reviews and comments, as long as no offensive, profane, or slanderous remarks were made and there was no violation of patient privacy or confidentiality.
Researchers compared the ratings reported for each doctor posted on the hospital websites with the physician's ratings on four commercial websites: Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com, RateMDs.com and UCompareHealthCare.com.
Compared to commercial ratings websites, they found that provider-initiated surveys garnered a higher number of ratings for each doctor, higher average patient satisfaction scores and a lower percentage of negative comments.
The authors said hospital surveys filled out by patients provide higher-quality data, and are a better indication of patient satisfaction.
Feedback from patients can also provide valuable information to physicians, according to the authors, who said care quality can improve as a result.