Patients often say good things about their physicians on rate-your-doc Web sites, but are less positive about system issues

Research Activities, August 2012, No. 384

Most reviews of primary care physicians (63 percent) are positive that are posted to two Web sites that let patients rate their doctors. In fact, they often recommend the physician. However, not all positive reviews (for example, "Dr. B is a great doctor.") give enough detail for a potential patient to make an informed choice, according to a new study.

Even when patients comment on the doctor's interpersonal manner or technical competence, these comments tend to be more positive (69 percent and 80 percent positive, respectively) than those about the doctor's staff or other systems-level issues (60 percent positive vs. 40 percent negative). The systems issues include comments on staff (60 percent positive), appointment wait time (39 percent positive), access to appointments (57 percent positive), and the practice office environment (56 percent positive).

The researchers also viewed comments that they could not categorize as positive or negative, for example, how the patient chose the physician, the cost of care, the practice's use of health information technology, and convenience of the practice location. The presence of specific, negative interpersonal reviews underscores the importance of a good bedside manner—as perceived by the patient—for a successful physician-patient interaction, the researchers conclude. They suggest that physicians who try to address negative comments about staff, access, or convenience could make the office environment more patient-centered.

The researchers examined physician rating comments on two Web sites, the medicine-specific site,, and, a general consumer-rating Web site. Ratings were selected for 445 doctors in four urban areas (Atlanta, Chicago, New York, San Francisco), resulting in 712 reviews (397 from and 315 from that were almost evenly divided among the cities. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS17594).

More details are in "What patients say about their doctors online: A qualitative content analysis," by Andrea Lopez, B.S., Alissa Detz, M.D., Neda Ratanawongsa, M.D., and Urmimala Sarkar, M.D., in the June 2012 Journal of General Internal Medicine 27(6), pp.685-692.


Current as of August 2012
Internet Citation: Patients often say good things about their physicians on rate-your-doc Web sites, but are less positive about system issues: Research Activities, August 2012, No. 384. August 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.