Do online ratings matter? Investigating the correlation between online physician and hospital ratings and patient outcomes.

Do online ratings matter? Investigating the correlation between online physician and hospital ratings and patient outcomes.

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Author: Orly Bogler
Supervisors: Dr. Chaim Bell and Dr. Jessica Liu

Online ratings are increasingly being used by consumers to rate and comment on their healthcare providers (1). In Canada and the US, websites such as ratemds.com, vitals.com, and healthgrades.com have increased in popularity in recent years. Consumers have the ability to rate their healthcare experience and provide comments on their thoughts on the quality of care they received. However, there is little data available on whether or not online ratings correlate to established healthcare outcomes.

In general, there are few studies investigating the ability of patients to accurately appraise their healthcare quality. Most of the existing literature pertains to patient satisfaction or patient complaints and their correlation with lawsuits and mortality, with variable findings (2-4). However, there is relatively little exploration into the area of online ratings. Some studies have described ratings for specific subspecialties and geographical locations (5-9). Others have explored patient and physician awareness and use of rating websites (1, 10-12). Recently, studies have looked at the association between online ratings and physician-specific and hospital-level outcomes such as readmission rates and mortality, with mixed results (13-19).

Our work will contribute to the growing body of research surrounding online ratings by examining the association between online physician ratings and physician-specific percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) mortality. We will also explore the association between Canadian hospital ratings and hospital-level PCI mortality and 30-day readmission rates.

By better understanding the relationship between online ratings with quality of care, we can help patients navigate an increasingly complex healthcare system and direct the appropriate use of online rating tools. Choosing a hospital or healthcare provider may, in some ways, be similar to choosing a restaurant or a hotel. Additionally, this type of work compliments the trend in healthcare to improve transparency and provides incentive and feedback for physicians to improve their practice.

There are limitations to using online websites. Reviews are not vetted; posts may be biased, and criticisms of the rating websites include the potential for physicians or hospitals to pay to manipulate their ratings. Additionally, reviews may be more reflective of the quality of customer service, such as by rating the cleanliness or punctuality of the clinic, rather than health quality outcomes such as patient mortality (13, 20). However, generating more research about online ratings will inform consumers to approach ratings carefully, and may encourage rating companies to modify their websites, such as by including more established performance metrics and improving the websites’ legitimacy (21).

With our population’s growing online presence, rating websites will only increase in popularity, creating data that is at the disposal of patients, providers, and researchers. I now understand the importance of using these datasets in research to influence patient outcomes or choices. Moreover, using patient-generated reports as part of a research investigation highlights the importance of the patient’s involvement in the circle of care. It is far more common to use solicited patient surveys, but by using unsolicited patient-generated data, our research attempts to understand patient care, in patients’ own words, by using an unsolicited platform for physician and hospital feedback that the public is using.

 

References

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