Physician rating websites ask the wrong questions

Physician rating websites ask the wrong questions

New research from Houston Methodist finds many websites that allow patients to rate physicians do not ask the right questions necessary to provide a reliable physician rating.

Joshua Harris, M.D., a Houston Methodist orthopedic surgeon, reviewed 14 patient-reported physician rating websites to determine how many questions were about the physician or factors under their direct control. In a paper published in Orthopedics, Harris reports that only 28 percent of questions were about the physician.

“I believe that physician rating websites are excellent tools to help patients find a doctor, but this research proves that choosing the best physician for you should not be based on online reviews alone,” said Harris. “More than two-thirds of a physician’s rating is based on people or factors other than the physician, their expertise, or bedside manner.”

The most common questions were versions of office staff friendliness/courtesy (71 percent), wait times (64 percent), and trust/confidence in the physician (50 percent). RealSelf, Angie’s List, and Healthgrades asked patients to answer the most questions, and iWantGreatCare,, and Healthgrades asked the most questions about the physician.

A separate 2016 survey showed 77 percent of patients looked at online reviews before choosing a physician. Houston Methodist began posting actual patient reviews with star ratings on its website in 2015. The Houston Methodist survey asks 34 questions, but the physician’s star rating is based on seven questions specifically about the patient’s one-on-one interaction with the physician. An independent third-party vendor verifies these ratings.

Harris said his main takeaway from this research is that interested patients should not take the ratings at face value.

“When searching for a new physician online, patients should look beyond the star rating and read the comments written by other patients, as that provides better information than any numerical rating,” Harris said. “Not all one-star physicians are bad, and not all five-star physicians are great.”