As if doctors don’t have enough stress and lack of job satisfaction, they also have to deal with negative online and social media reviews. As research in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings points out, these reviews are often inaccurate reflectors of patient outcomes or even of more generalized patient experience of care. (Mayo Article) One in six doctors is subject to an online review and particularly for younger patients, these reviews can affect selection of providers as well as interactions with them. Past research has suggested that online reviews have little correlation with other markers of quality. This research used Mayo physicians and compared those with an online negative review with those who did not have one, to try to identify whether there was a real quality difference and whether there were other factors which led to the negative review. There were 113 doctors who had a negative review out of 2148 total physicians. These doctors were matched with an equal number who did not have a negative review. Scores on a nationally used and recognized patient satisfaction survey instrument were compared for the two groups of doctors. There was essentially no difference; doctors with a negative review had an average score of 4.05, those without one had a score of 4.04. Looking at the aspects of the survey that were doctor specific versus practice-oriented (for example, how friendly the receptionist is), there was also no difference. The non-physician specific scores, however, were lower for a doctor who had a negative online review, indicating that factors other than the doctor’s performance led to the negative review.
One message might be that online reviews should always come with a warning that they really aren’t very credible and sources for those online reviews should have to direct viewers to other sources of information which are more credible, like official patient satisfaction survey results.. Another lesson is that physician practices should probably be attuned to all the aspects of patient experience that might affect physician perceptions.