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Doctor Review Websites Remain A Growing Industry

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Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks researched doctor review sites. (credit:CBS)

Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks researched doctor review sites. (credit:CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – The Internet has become a reliable resource for restaurant reviews and vacation referrals, but doctor review websites are statistically not yet making the grade.

There is a proliferation of sites that offer profiles and ratings of doctors, but right now only 4 percent of Internet users have posted a review of medical personnel, according to a study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

“One of the biggest problems with these sites is that they’re really based on anonymous opinions,” CBS4 Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida said.

A recent study in the Journal of Urology agrees. The study looked at ratings for 500 urologists on 10 different websites and found that the doctor’s ratings were based on an average of 2.4 reviews. The study called the ratings “volatile.”

“Generally, you get the people who are at one extreme or the other,” Hnida said.

Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks looked up Hnida on several of the sites. Here’s what she found:

- Healthgrades.com – 83% based on 6 reviews

- Vitals.com – 4 stars based on 1 review

- Ratemds.com – 1 out of 5 based on 1 review

- Healthcarereviews.com – profile but no reviews or rating

- Drscore.com – profile but no reviews or ratings

In the one review on ratemds.com, the anonymous patient calls Hnida “rude, unprofessional and demeaning.” As a doctor, he can’t fight back.

“You really are limited in your response by HIPPA. HIPPA is the law that says you cannot talk or discuss patients,” Hnida explained.

Healthcarereviews.com gives doctors control over patient comments for just that reason. In a statement, a spokesman for the website said:

They can respond to anonymous comments or even censor them if deemed slanderous. By providing doctors control over their online reputation, we hope they will embrace online patient feedback services and promote its usage to their patients, rather than wait for a few negative comments to skewer their online reputation.

Several websites contacted by CBS4 acknowledge that few patient reviews are a problem that skews the ratings. In a statement, the co-founder of ratemds.com, John Swapceinski, said, “We are constantly working to increase the number of reviews the site offers, primarily by raising awareness of our Web site through online advertising. Over time, we believe that most doctors will eventually attain 20 to 25 reviews which, in our experience, is when the averages start to become meaningful.”

“Doctors use our site as an easy, inexpensive, high quality way to get patient satisfaction feedback. Doctors who do so can quickly have 20 or more ratings. Some on our site have over 100 ratings,” said Dr. Steven Feldman, the founder of drscore.com.

Hnida says there is another pitfall with the ratings websites.

“Some of the information on these sites is often inaccurate,” Hnida told CBS4.

MORE FROM DR. DAVE HNIDA’S BLOG: Here’s My Personal Response To Online ‘Ratings’ | So How Do You Find A Really, Really Good Doctor?

Healthgrades.com says it gets its physician information from several doctor databases as well as state licensing boards. Ratemds.com uses a government registry of doctors for its information. ZocDoc has member doctors that provide their own profiles. Drscore.com buys a list of all the doctors in the United States, but also says that doctors are welcome to update their information. Healthcarereviews.com uses a combination of databases and allows doctors and patients to set up profiles. Doctors can update their information on that website too.

“There really is very little in terms of objective evidence about how a doctor really is able to practice,” Hnida said.

Many doctors like Hnida are not on board with these rating sites, and research shows they’re still a work in progress so if you use them know what you’re getting.

RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks

- Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith

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