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J Med Internet Res. 2018 Mar 7;20(3):e76. doi: 10.2196/jmir.7475.

Scope, Breadth, and Differences in Online Physician Ratings Related to Geography, Specialty, and Year: Observational Retrospective Study.

Author information

1
Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada.
2
Biostatistics Research Unit, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada.
3
Sinai Health System, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Physician ratings websites have emerged as a novel forum for consumers to comment on their health care experiences. Little is known about such ratings in Canada.

OBJECTIVE:

We investigated the scope and trends for specialty, geographic region, and time for online physician ratings in Canada using a national data source from the country's leading physician-rating website.

METHODS:

This observational retrospective study used online ratings data from Canadian physicians (January 2005-September 2013; N=640,603). For specialty, province, and year of rating, we assessed whether physicians were likely to be rated favorably by using the proportion of ratings greater than the overall median rating.

RESULTS:

In total, 57,412 unique physicians had 640,603 individual ratings. Overall, ratings were positive (mean 3.9, SD 1.3). On average, each physician had 11.2 (SD 10.1) ratings. By comparing specialties with Canadian Institute of Health Information physician population numbers over our study period, we inferred that certain specialties (obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, surgery, and dermatology) were more commonly rated, whereas others (pathology, radiology, genetics, and anesthesia) were less represented. Ratings varied by specialty; cardiac surgery, nephrology, genetics, and radiology were more likely to be rated in the top 50th percentile, whereas addiction medicine, dermatology, neurology, and psychiatry were more often rated in the lower 50th percentile of ratings. Regarding geographic practice location, ratings were more likely to be favorable for physicians practicing in eastern provinces compared with western and central Canada. Regarding year, the absolute number of ratings peaked in 2007 before stabilizing and decreasing by 2013. Moreover, ratings were most likely to be positive in 2007 and again in 2013.

CONCLUSIONS:

Physician-rating websites are a relatively novel source of provider-level patient satisfaction and are a valuable source of the patient experience. It is important to understand the breadth and scope of such ratings, particularly regarding specialty, geographic practice location, and changes over time.

KEYWORDS:

online ratings; patient satisfaction; patient-centered care; quality improvement

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