The Internet has transformed the way we get information. No one uses the telephone book anymore to find a phone number or a physical map to determine traveling directions. Smartphones and tablets have even supplanted laptop and desktop computers as the portal to the vast amount of information available online. Typing is not necessary—calling out “Hey Siri” and “Hey Google” have become the preferred method of finding information on these devices. Perhaps librarians are at risk of becoming an endangered profession as the public has become more dependent on digital assistants to find the information that they need.
Online information has been transformed
Thirty years ago, websites were mostly about distribution of information, usually curated by someone who may have been an authority in that arena but not necessarily so. The concept Web 2.0 may be largely forgotten, but it highlighted how the Internet and software have changed to harness collective intelligence or knowledge of the masses as well as how the web has become a platform.1 Blogs are a great example of the web as a platform. Technology has enabled everyone to put their opinion and other comments online and made them easier to find. Amazon has changed the retail industry as a platform for commerce, helped in part by its presentation of customer reviews and ratings as well as questions and answers that facilitate purchase decision making.
Physician rating sites
It is no surprise that finding health information online is a common activity. Google Trends has shown that since 2004, 70% of queries on average are health-related.2 Insurance companies use the web to provide information about health plan benefits as well as providers in their network. Searching for psychiatrists is even easier by entering the terms “psychiatrist,” “desired city,” and “appropriate state,” in any Internet search engine. This search also reveals a new web resource—the physician rating site.
Physician rating sites are just what you would imagine. The sites allow individuals to review their physician and add their opinion. Many of these websites list information such as where the physician trained (eg, medical school, hospital affiliations, board certifications), and what insurance plans he or she accepts. Some of this information comes from the American Medical Association while other information comes from partner websites such as Doximity.com. Healthgrades will conduct a background check that includes disciplinary actions, malpractice claims, and board actions.3
The majority of these sites use metrics to rate the psychiatrist, such as how easy it is to make an appointment, the friendliness of the staff, promptness of the physician, and how much time he or she spends with the patient. A typical rating scale ranges from zero to five stars. More significantly, an open comments section provides a platform for patients to state whatever they wish. Some sites allow anyone to rate and remain anonymous, while for other sites a valid email address is necessary to post reviews.
The implications of reviews are straightforward. Positive reviews help the online reputation of the physician, potentially increasing the number of patients who will contact the office to set up an appointment. Negative reviews will do the opposite. Many of these physician rating sites suggest several physicians with higher ratings for the prospective patient.
Dr Luo is Chief Medical Information Officer, University of California Riverside School of Medicine. Dr Luo reports no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this article.
1. O’Reilly T. What is Web 2.0. 2005. https://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html. Accessed April 2, 2019.
2. Google Trends. Health. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=health. Accessed April 2, 2019.
3. Healthgrades. https://www.healthgrades.com. Accessed April 2, 2019.
4. Rozner L. Manhattan Doctor Sues Patient For $1 Million For Posting Negative Reviews Online. 2018. https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/05/29/million-dollar-online-review-lawsuit/. Accessed April 2, 2019.
5. Reputation Defender. https://www.reputationdefender.com/lp/business/. Accessed April 2, 2019.