SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, March 21, 2016
TUESDAY, March 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of parents turn to online ratings in their search for a doctor, but most parents say they aren't sure they can trust Web-based reviews, new U.S. research shows.
"Online rating sites are becoming an increasingly common and potentially influential source of information for parents as they choose a doctor," said study lead author Dr. David Hanauer, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
"Websites reviewing doctors are readily available, but concerns about how trustworthy they are may be preventing parents from using them broadly," he said in a hospital news release.
The hospital conducted a national poll on children's health. It showed that more than two-thirds of parents are skeptical of online doctor reviews, and even assume that some are made up. Nearly the same number of parents also said there aren't enough ratings for them to make a good decision. And more than half of parents also believe doctors may have a say in who posts ratings.
The poll found 36 percent of moms and 22 percent of dads visited websites with online ratings to find a doctor for themselves or someone in their family during the past year. Among these parents, two-thirds based their decision to select or avoid a doctor based on ratings posted online.
More than four out of five who chose a doctor after reading favorable reviews felt the online ratings were accurate, the poll revealed.
Concerns about online doctor ratings were more common among older parents. Among those over 30, more than 70 percent were worried they might base a decision on a fake review. The same was true for only 59 percent of parents younger than 30, the researchers said.
"Doctor-rating sites have the potential to help make the patient-physician relationship more service-oriented," said Hanauer, who is also a clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. "In order for online rating sites to become a more accepted and useful tool, doctors will need to be more engaged in the process, in ways that assure that ratings are authentic."
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides more on how to find a doctor.