Infectious Disease

Many older Americans use online reviews when choosing doctors

April 12, 2021

2 min read

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Healio Primary Care was unable to determine the researchers’ relevant financial information at the time of publication.

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More than 40% of older adults in the United States said they used online reviews or ratings when choosing their doctor. This is based on survey data published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The online ratings and ratings were seen as “very important,” much as were verbal recommendations from respondents’ family and friends, and more common than a place where a doctor was trained or attended medical school, researchers reported.

Kullgren JT et al. Ann Intern Med. 2021; doi: 10.7326 / M20-7600.

“We conducted this research because online reviews and ratings are becoming increasingly available to the public and it is unclear how older adults – who see a doctor more than any other age group – use and rate this information in choosing a doctor. ” Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH, A scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan told Healio Primary Care.

Jeffrey T. Kullgren

Kullgren and colleagues checked the responses of 2,256 Americans aged 50 to 80, most of them women (n = 1,192) and whites (n = 1,687), who responded to the national healthy aging survey in May 2019. Respondents answered questions about online habits and other factors when choosing a doctor.

The researchers wrote that more than four in ten respondents (42.9%; 95% CI, 40.7% -45.1%) said they received online reviews or ratings for a doctor than they received one for chose yourself. This process was more common in women than in men (48.2% versus 37.1%), in people with at least one chronic disease (45.2% versus 38%), and in people with at least a university education (50.2%) or higher (49%) compared to those with a high school education or less (33.2%).

Kullgren said he was surprised that many older adults looked up reviews and ratings online.

“There is a common perception that online information resources are more likely to be used and useful to younger patients, but our results suggest that many older patients are also using this information,” he said.

The researchers also found that when choosing a doctor, older adults rated “very important” as to whether the doctor accepted their health insurance (93%; 95% CI, 91.8% -94.1%) and whether the doctor did was of the same race / ethnicity as her (2.4%; 95% CI, 1.7% -3.2%). Although online physician ratings and reviews ranked ninth in the criteria for selecting a physician, they were rated “very important” (20.3%; 95% CI, 18.5% -22.1%) , almost the same as verbal recommendations (23%; 95% CI, 21.2% -25%). Online ratings were rated more frequently as “very important” among racial / ethnic minorities and less often as “very important” among respondents with at least a Bachelor’s degree.

According to Kullgren, the results underscore the importance of ensuring that information about doctors online is accurate and trustworthy, and that patients understand the “potential and limitations” of the information.

“Doctors should know that many elderly patients use online reviews and ratings when choosing a doctor and that this information is very important,” continued Kullgren. “However, doctors should keep these results in mind and understand that many other factors have a greater impact when older adults choose a doctor.”

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Ariba Khan, MD, MPH, AGSF)

Ariba Khan, MD, MPH, AGSF

This is an important study that asked adults about the use of online doctor surveys. As we know, older adults use the internet or even a computer less often compared to younger people. In this study of a select group of older adults, it was pretty impressive that 43% of them looked up medical reviews online. In addition, they were more likely to be women with a higher level of education and chronic illnesses. Although online doctor reviews weren’t the deciding factor in choosing a doctor, patients found them to be just as important as recommendations from family members or friends. Perhaps the actual use of online doctor reviews is higher when we consider family members.

Unfortunately, current online reviews by doctors are rudimentary in guiding patients. With improved access to computers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope for exponential growth in this area. I am not sure what information would best serve our patients. However, this study gives us the insight that patients are most interested in accepted health insurance and the race / ethnicity of the doctor. If the features are important to patients online, it can save time and simplify the process of making an appointment with the right doctor.

The takeaway message from the study is that online doctor reviews may grow in importance as we familiarize ourselves with working online during the pandemic. Further knowledge of appropriate information for patients to use in selecting a doctor is needed to assist the medical community in producing valuable online reviews of doctors.

Ariba Khan, MD, MPH, AGSF

Lecturer in medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine
Public Health Attorney, Aurora Health Care, Milwaukee

Disclosure: Khan does not report any relevant financial information.

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