How to Navigate Online Ratings of Doctors
Last updated: June 2022
The other day while looking for a specialist, I had a flashback to my very short stint of online dating. I looked through different profiles and found someone in my location with mutual interests. It sounded like a perfect match, so I picked up the phone and made an appointment to meet with that physician!
Doing my research
Online resources have been helpful for patients to find new doctors, especially websites that list the doctor's specialties or research they've done. For example, I have discovered rheumatologists specializing in psoriatic arthritis and young adults.
But I've also noticed that some websites allow patients to rate their doctors. Reviews have been a total game-changer for people with chronic illnesses who need to see new rheumatologists or other specialties. And they can be encouraging for people who have had bad experiences and have anxiety regarding seeing new doctors.
Read the reviews... with caution
Patient reviews are a good place to start when looking for a new doctor. I keep an eye on them when I need to see a specialist, but I try not to let it be the end all be all. Reviews are subjective. They're not rooted in concrete evidence or data and will likely change from website to website. And I always keep in mind that people are more likely to leave a review for a negative experience than a positive one.
For that reason, I personally give more weight to positive comments. Someone having such a positive experience that they go out of their way to leave a four or five-star review says a lot!
It's not to say I completely disregard negative comments. Negative reviews can be helpful if the doctor consistently gets multiple bad reviews for the same reason, such as rushing the appointments or downplaying symptoms. It's not great to see one or two negative reviews, but everyone has bad days.
Contributing my own experiences
Because I like reading them, I also try to leave reviews when I can. Especially when I have a good experience since positive interactions are less likely to be reported. When I leave comments, I try to make sure I've seen the doctor at least twice, but sometimes it's not possible due to a bad experience.
Even if I had a bad experience, I respectfully and calmly explain why I left a negative rating. I find using 'I' statements helpful since they're subjective and clear. For example, "I felt like this provider didn't listen to my symptoms."
Patient reviews (when they're available) have helped me choose several providers. Still, I always keep in mind that they do not guarantee a positive or negative experience.
Yes, sometimes they're accurate (especially when comments are consistent with one or two specific complaints or compliments). But I've seen doctors with multiple five-star reviews who brushed me off immediately. And I have one who got horrible reviews but is one of the most compassionate healthcare providers I've ever seen.
Have you ever used the internet to search for a new doctor? Have online reviews helped you decide whether or not to schedule an appointment? Share with us in the comments below!
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