Do health care providers use online patient ratings to improve the quality of care?
- Background: Physician-rating websites have become a popular tool to create more transparency about the quality of health care providers. So far, it remains unknown whether online-based rating websites have the potential to contribute to a better standard of care. Objective: Our goal was to examine which health care providers use online rating websites and for what purposes, and whether health care providers use online patient ratings to improve patient care. Methods: We conducted an online-based cross-sectional study by surveying 2360 physicians and other health care providers (September 2015). In addition to descriptive statistics, we performed multilevel logistic regression models to ascertain the effects of providers' demographics as well as report card-related variables on the likelihood that providers implement measures to improve patient care. Results: Overall, more than half of the responding providers surveyed (54.66%, 1290/2360) used online ratings to derive measures to improve patient care (implemented measures: mean 3.06, SD 2.29). Ophthalmologists (68%, 40/59) and gynecologists (65.4%, 123/188) were most likely to implement any measures. The most widely implemented quality measures were related to communication with patients (28.77%, 679/2360), the appointment scheduling process (23.60%, 557/2360), and office workflow (21.23%, 501/2360). Scaled-survey results had a greater impact on deriving measures than narrative comments. Multilevel logistic regression models revealed medical specialty, the frequency of report card use, and the appraisal of the trustworthiness of scaled-survey ratings to be significantly associated predictors for implementing measures to improve patient care because of online ratings. Conclusions: Our results suggest that online ratings displayed on physician-rating websites have an impact on patient care. Despite the limitations of our study and unintended consequences of physician-rating websites, they still may have the potential to improve patient care.