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Online Doctor Reviews: Do They Track Quality of Care?

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 7:22am

/PRNewswire/ -- Jeffrey Segal, CEO and Founder of Medical Justice, today announced research findings which will be published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research. This research, the first known of its kind, examines whether doctors with positive online reputations on doctor review sites actually deliver better clinical outcomes with better safety records. The publication is available for download. To help answer the question, Segal focused on several surgical procedures, backed by data that suggest surgeons who perform more of these procedures have better clinical outcomes and safety records than those who perform fewer procedures. The objective was to determine if surgeon volume, as a proxy for clinical outcomes and patient safety, correlated with a doctor's online reputation.

In the article titled Online Doctor Reviews: Do They Track Surgeon Volume, A Proxy for Quality of Care?[1], Segal investigated the numerical ratings and comments on nine online review sites of high- and low-volume surgeons for three procedures; lumbar surgery, total knee replacement, and bariatric surgery. "High volume surgeons" and "low volume" surgeons were randomly selected from doctors submitting claims and captured by the Normative Health Information Database, covering multiple payers for more than 25 million insured patients.

The study identified that high volume surgeons could be differentiated from low volume surgeons independently by analyzing (a) total number of numerical ratings per site; (b) total number of text comments per site; (c) proportion of glowing praise / total comments on clinical outcome; and (d) proportion of scathing criticism / total comments on clinical outcome. Even when these features were combined, the effect size, though significant, was still weak.

Segal noted, "Online review sites have generally focused on customer service metrics. For example- how long does it take to get an appointment; does the doctor seem to listen well. While important, patients are also hungry for information related to patient safety and clinical outcomes. To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to conclude online review sites provide a rich source of data that may be able to track quality of care, though the effect size is weak, and not consistent for all review site metrics. Clearly this evolving field deserves further study."

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