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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Online Ratings Influence Parents’ Choices of Physicians for Their Children, Michigan Study Finds

Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of parents are aware of online rating sites for physicians, and more than one-quarter (28 percent) have used those online ratings to choose a health care provider for their children, according to Michigan research published in Pediatrics.


Using the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, researchers—including SPH’s Dr. Matthew Davis, a professor in health management and policy–surveyed 1,619 parents about how online ratings of physicians influenced their choices in seeking health care providers for their children.

They found that parents had a higher level of awareness of online sites than the overall population, says lead author Dr. David A. Hanauer, a primary care pediatrician at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the U-M Medical School.

In the study, parents were give three scenarios designed to measure the impact of online ratings on their decision to select a physician for their children. In the first scenario, they were told a doctor who took their health insurance was recommended by a neighbor. In the second, they were told that the neighbor-recommended doctor had one of the top ratings on a physician-rating Web site. And in the third scenario, they were told the neighbor-recommended doctor had one of the lowest physician ratings on the website.

The results showed that just a neighbor’s recommendation, the first scenario, spurred 22 percent of the parents to say it was very likely they would choose the recommended physician. But when the neighbor’s recommendation was combined with the high online rating, that number more than doubled, to 46 percent reporting they’d be very likely to choose the recommended physician. Meanwhile, only three percent said they were very likely to choose the physician based on a neighbor’s recommendation with a low online rating.

“A provider’s online reputation may now be just as important as one’s reputation among the general community, and the results from this research seems to support that perspective,” Dr. Hanauer says.

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