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Patient Assessments and Online Ratings of Quality Care: A “Wake-Up Call” for Providers

Merrell, Jonathan G BS1; Levy, Benjamin H III MD2; Johnson, David A MD, FACG3

American Journal of Gastroenterology: November 2013 - Volume 108 - Issue 11 - p 1676–1685
doi: 10.1038/ajg.2013.112
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OBJECTIVES: Many physicians have been reluctant to embrace physician evaluation websites (PEWs) due to the overwhelming number of PEWs and concerns about negative anonymous feedback. This article provides perspective for the vast array of PEWs, website features and user characteristics, and identifies the most notable websites which merit attention from physicians concerned about their online reputations.

METHODS: 35 PEWs met criteria for inclusion in the analysis. Each website was studied to assess its geographic focus, detailed features of physician profiles, nature of patient-generated reviews, number of monthly site visitors, and other points including user demographics and characteristics.

RESULTS: Most PEWs provide their services free-of-charge, and physicians are usually allowed to create and enhance online profiles without payment. Anonymous posting of reviews is an almost universal feature of PEWs, but most reviews are positive. A few websites allow physicians to respond publicly or privately to negative patient reviews. These and other notable websites are identified.

CONCLUSIONS: Physician evaluation websites have tremendous potential to help doctors and patients. With this review as a guide, physicians should collaborate with PEWs to harness their potential, to improve clinical practices, and to attract new patients. As physicians increasingly interact with the most “doctor-friendly” PEWs, this collaboration could motivate other websites to implement changes that give physicians greater control over their online reputations. The era of doctors avoiding online evaluations is closing, and in the future, physicians who embrace PEWs are most likely to succeed.

1 Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

2 Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

3 Department of Gastroenterology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Correspondence: Dr David A. Johnson, MD, FACG, Department of Gastroenterology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, 885 Kempsville Road, Suite 114, Norfolk, Virginia 23502, USA. E-mail: Dajevms@aol.com

© The American College of Gastroenterology 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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