How to Use Online Ratings for a Doctor

Looking for an exceptional doctor? If you're like most people, you rely on word of mouth. But you can go online to size up health care providers in your community by finding out how they rate.

These web sites aren't perfect:

  • These sites use only patient reviews to rank doctors. This means the ratings are based more on opinion than actual data showing how well a doctor provided treatment or care.
  • Some of these rating web site may promote physicians who have a paid rather than a free profile.
  • If you have questions, ask your health care providers. They can help explain what the rankings may mean -- and what they don't mean.
  • Use the information to help you decide. But don't rely on it entirely. Consider what else you know, too.

HealthGrades.com

Reviews: Doctors and dentists

Rating format: Percentage of patients that recommend the health provider. Each professional is ranked based on the criteria you selected for sorting.

What you can find: A list of specialists near you that you can sort based on what's most important to you. For instance, you can sort by quality and patient feedback, type of insurance they accept, distance from you, and the doctor's gender.

Details you can see: Directions and maps. How long health professionals have been in practice, their education and training, licensing and certification, how many office locations they have, hospital affiliations, what types of insurance they cover, languages spoken, and whether they are accepting new patients.

What the rating is based on: Online patient satisfaction reviews.

What you can do: You can look up a rating or add a review. You can rate the doctor's staff and wait time. You can also rate how well the doctor listens and explains medical conditions. The site uses a 5-star rating system.

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RateMDs.com

Reviews: Patient ratings for doctors.

Rating format: A scoring system up to 5.

What you can find: A specialist near you, the gender you prefer, one that's accepting new patients, one that's rated.

Details you can see: When the doctor was last reviewed, number of ratings, average rating out of 5, educational background, hospital affiliations, languages spoken. The site also includes a link to the state board of medicine to get further information on a particular doctor.

What the rating is based on: Online patient-satisfaction reviews.

What you can do: You can look up a rating or add a review. You can rate the doctor's staff and wait time. You can also rate how helpful and knowledgeable the doctor is. The site uses a 5-point rating system.

Note: This web site takes paid advertisements from doctors.

Vitals.com

Reviews: Patient reviews of doctors and dentists

Rating Format: Four-star system including traits like promptness, bedside manner, and follow-up.

What you can find: A doctor or dentist by name, specialty, and condition to see what other patients have said about them. Vitals also spotlights doctors who consistently get high rankings with a badging system, such as People's Choice and Top 10 doctors. You can also find the doctor's credentials, locations, hospital affiliations, education, whether they are accepting new patients, and the insurance they accept.

What the rating is based on: Online patient-satisfaction reviews.

What you can do: You can look up a rating or add a review. You can use the 4-point ranking system to rate the doctor by promptness, accurate diagnosis, bedside manner, and time spent with you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on September 13, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, April 2011: "Trends in the Use of Hospital and Provider Quality Ratings."

CareChex, division of Comparion: "Hospital Quality Scoring and Rating Methods."

HealthGrades: "HealthGrades Research Reports, Top Hospitals, and Methodologies."

RateMDs: "FAQ."

Vitals: "Homepage."

Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, May 12, 2011: "The Social Life of Health Information, 2011."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthcare.gov blog: "Affordable Care Act at 3: Paying for Quality Saves Health Care Dollars."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthcare.gov: "The Health Care Law & You."

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: "Background Paper, Physician Compare Website: Redesign and Public Reporting Webinar Available Jan. 7-14, 2013."

Journal of Medical Internet Research, Feb. 24, 2012: "A Changing Landscape of Physician Quality Reporting: Analysis of Patients' Online Ratings of Their Physicians Over a 5-Year Period."

Loyola University, Jan 2, 2013, news release: "Physician Rating Websites Rely on Few Patient Reviews, Loyola Study Finds."

Journal of Medical Internet Research, Feb. 1, 2013: "Eight Questions About Physician-Rating Websites: A Systematic Review."

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: "Five Things to Keep in Mind When Using Information on the Quality of Local Doctors or Hospitals."

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