The Big Problem With Doctor Reviews (And How to Solve It)

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Fast cars, fast food, and fast service—as busy people, we often make decisions based on speed so we can get what we need in the quickest way possible. But the need for speed when looking for the right doctor can lead to less-than-ideal results—that is, if you are not using the right technology. 

Navigating the health journey is daunting, so many health consumers turn to online reviews to speed up the process of finding the best providers. This technology can be a time-saver, but not all technology is created equal. 

We are firm believers in properly evaluating health providers and hospitals to help consumers make the best choices. Every service provider should be adequately reviewed and evaluated, especially when it comes to a medical situation. But, the evaluation data must be reliable and accurately represent the provider’s expertise and experience. Otherwise, you may put your health at risk. 

The Biggest Problems With Online Physician Reviews

Why are online health reviews unreliable? Here are some problems with online doctor reviews and why they can steer you down the wrong path.

The Biggest Problems With Online Physician Reviews

Physicians Are Scrutinized Like Other Service Providers 

Should risotto from your new local restaurant be scrutinized the same as a physician’s quality of care?

The negative outcome of ingesting a spoonful of less-than-tasty risotto is trivial compared to working with a doctor who does not understand your condition and can delay proper treatment. But, health consumers consult the same types of online reviews to weigh decisions for all service providers, regardless of the service they provide. 

When assessing health providers, consulting online reviews does not give you enough information to mitigate all of the risks you may face when working with the wrong one. Level of experience and expertise in your condition are some of the most significant considerations when selecting a specialist. But, you won’t find those attributes in online reviews. If you are potentially dealing with a rare or complex condition, finding a physician who has expertise in your condition is paramount. 

You’re Putting Your Health in the Hands of Disgruntled Patients

You’re Putting Your Health in the Hands of Disgruntled Patients

When you read an online physician review, you don’t know if the patient received a high quality of care or was just frustrated that they didn’t get the treatment they expected, even if that treatment may not have been the best course of action. Some patients want medication when it isn’t necessary (i.e., antibiotics for viruses) and may poorly review a doctor when they are just doing their job. Similarly, some patients may be frustrated with long wait times or payment issues and vent these frustrations in an online review.

A study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings compared 113 doctors who received negative online reviews with 113 randomly chosen doctors who did not have negative reviews but did have results from the independent Press Ganey Patient Satisfaction Survey. Researchers gathered and evaluated data for four months. Results show that physicians with negative online reviews scored similarly to the other physicians in the survey results. Yet, on factors beyond their control (staff friendliness and wait times), they scored lower.  

Dr Sandhya Pruthi, an internal medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic, as reported by Healthline, stated, “Our study highlights the disconnection between industry-vetted patient satisfaction scores and online review comments.”

One negative review, even among several positive, can damage a physician’s reputation and deter health consumers from finding stellar doctors. While factors such as wait times and staff friendliness are important to weigh, they are not directly under the doctor’s control and should not be used as the sole measuring stick to assess a physician’s expertise, experience, and overall quality of care.

Incomplete and Unreliable Information

While 60% of health consumers think online reviews are important when choosing a physician, according to a study by the Journal of American Medicine, the quantity of online reviews is not sufficient enough to accurately represent a physician’s quality of care. A 2021 article by The Washington Post examined the risk of relying on online reviews for health decisions more deeply; it cites a peer-reviewed study that found that star ratings and written reviews are equally bad at judging the quality of medical care.

Out of a total of five doctor reviews, one to two negative ones may sway your opinion. However, the physician may see 40+ patients a week, so this is not enough information to accurately evaluate a physician’s quality of care

But, even if the number of reviews was sufficient, you still have no way of knowing if they are legitimate and written by real patients. Online review sites do not check if a reviewer was an actual patient of the doctor. And due to privacy laws, doctors cannot reply to reviews and explain their side.

You also don’t know if the reviewer is similar to you or has the same health issues. Have many other patients just like you visited this doctor and received proper treatment? While it is valuable to know how friendly the staff is at an oncologist’s office, it’s more critical to know how many similar patients this physician has successfully treated.

Incomplete and Unreliable Information

Comparing Online Reviews With Real-World Provider Data

We discussed the inadequacy of online reviews in assessing a physician’s expertise and quality of care, which directly affect your health experience. Online reviews can also be vague and fail to explain the real issue (if there even was one). Also, if you compare online reviews with accurate medical data, you may get an entirely different story.

As an example, let’s say you discovered you had Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer, a rare and aggressive type of cancer that afflicts less than 1% of all people living with thyroid cancer. Delays are not an option, and quality of care is critical to your improved health and well-being. You need to find the best doctors in their field, those who know this condition, and have treated many similar patients. 

In your search for the right doctor, you found an oncologist and looked up online reviews for this physician. You saw a review like this one: 

Comparing Online Reviews With Real-World Provider Data

According to this review on this popular health review website, the patient rated the physician with only one star and offered a vague explanation. 

What is this physician’s expertise? What condition did this reviewer have? The review is also “self-verified,” so the patient (or non-patient) verified their identity, but you have no way of knowing if this reviewer was a real patient of this doctor. 

You may choose not to see this physician after reading this negative review. But, doing so could cost you delays that may result in adverse health outcomes. The reason why is that if we search for this same physician on MediFind, a sophisticated physician database built on cutting-edge machine learning that pulls data you can’t find on online review sites, you will find that this physician is an Elite provider for Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer.

According to MediFind’s proprietary rating system: Elite doctors are global leaders in their fields. They publish many articles in medical journals, speak at medical conferences, and participate in multiple clinical trials. They are likely to be on the cutting edge of new treatments. These doctors are also likely to hold leadership positions in their respective organizations and fields.

On MediFind’s physician page, you can also see the studies in which this physician has participated, their clinical trials, and publications. Had you passed on this doctor, you may have passed up the opportunity to get proper treatment from an elite doctor who has rigorously studied and treated this condition.

Having the right data is essential when searching for the best quality of care, especially if you are dealing with a complex, serious or rare condition where time is not on your side. Yet, ambiguous or potentially illegitimate online reviews from anonymous people are unable to provide this life-changing information. 

It’s not your responsibility

Though the information from online reviews is incomplete, it’s still not your responsibility as a health consumer to try to fill in the blanks and figure out if your doctor is providing quality care. Without a medical degree, it would be impossible for you to evaluate 100% whether your doctor is doing a good job or not. You weren’t trained to do this, and you aren’t expected to. Instead, you should have access to tools that evaluate doctors by incorporating data from real physicians and legitimate medical information. The good news? Now you do… 

An Alternative to Online Physician Reviews: How to Quickly Find a Stellar Doctor 

Our goal at MediFind is to empower health consumers like yourself to become your own health advocate with quick access to the latest information so you can make the best health decisions. 

Though online reviews provide some helpful information, they do not give you the full picture of your experience when working with a doctor. Ultimately, you want a doctor who is skilled enough in your condition to provide treatments that will work and increase the quality of your life. Many factors play into this—none of which you can find in online reviews or with a quick Google search.

That’s why we created MediFind. If you face a health crisis, you should never have to wonder whether you are receiving the best medical help. The healthcare journey is confusing and overwhelming enough. When you seek a trusted provider, you should know that you will be in safe hands—even before you step foot in the provider’s office.

MediFind gives you this assurance by combing through a large mass of health data across many sources to return the most pertinent information. We use proprietary artificial intelligence and natural language processing algorithms in combination with our team of medical experts to extract the latest treatment research, clinical trials, and other findings. This keeps you up to date with the most recent data on your condition, and helps you quickly identify the world’s premier doctors and specialists. 

Our rating system focuses on real data, not user-inputted reviews. So, you will always be reviewing the most accurate and up-to-date health information available. We evaluate physicians based on their knowledge of your condition as well as their involvement with their field of practice (research, clinical studies, peer standing, etc.).

This physician is rated as ‘Elite’ for this condition

With a quick search, you can review doctor ratings and their experience and expertise based on real-world data, and consult the latest data on studies and advances in your condition. If you do not yet know your condition, input your symptoms into our Symptom Checker to narrow down the potential diagnoses and help you focus your provider search. 

We Want the Best Health Outcomes For You

Here at MediFind, we are passionate about helping health consumers find the best care, in the shortest time possible. Time is not on your side when dealing with complex or serious health conditions. And relying on unreliable data from online medical reviews can set you back weeks, months, or even years when searching for a treatment for your condition. 

MediFind’s CEO and founder Patrick Howie experienced this first-hand after spending years looking for the right doctors and treatments for his brother diagnosed with a rare cancer. Time was not on his side, and eventually, the disease won. Had Patrick had more time and quicker access to the right information, perhaps things could have been different for his family. Patrick created MediFind to ensure that no one else would ever have to go through this again. With MediFind, you will never have to. 

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