26 July 2017
Physician-rating websites (PRWs) may lead to quality improvements in case they enable and establish a peer-to-peer communication between patients and physicians. Yet, we know little about whether and how physicians respond on the Web to patient ratings.
The objective of this study was to describe trends in physicians’ Web-based responses to patient ratings over time, to identify what physician characteristics influence Web-based responses, and to examine the topics physicians are likely to respond to.
We analyzed physician responses to more than 1 million patient ratings displayed on the German PRW, jameda, from 2010 to 2015. Quantitative analysis contained chi-square analyses and the Mann-Whitney U test. Quantitative content techniques were applied to determine the topics physicians respond to based on a randomly selected sample of 600 Web-based ratings and corresponding physician responses.
Overall, physicians responded to 1.58% (16,640/1,052,347) of all Web-based ratings, with an increasing trend over time from 0.70% (157/22,355) in 2010 to 1.88% (6377/339,919) in 2015. Web-based ratings that were responded to had significantly worse rating results than ratings that were not responded to (2.15 vs 1.74, P<.001). Physicians who respond on the Web to patient ratings differ significantly from nonresponders regarding several characteristics such as gender and patient recommendation results ( P<.001 each). Regarding scaled-survey rating elements, physicians were most likely to respond to the waiting time within the practice (19.4%, 99/509) and the time spent with the patient (18.3%, 110/600). Almost one-third of topics in narrative comments were answered by the physicians (30.66%, 382/1246).
So far, only a minority of physicians have taken the chance to respond on the Web to patient ratings. This is likely because of (1) the low awareness of PRWs among physicians, (2) the fact that only a few PRWs enable physicians to respond on the Web to patient ratings, and (3) the lack of an active moderator to establish peer-to-peer communication. PRW providers should foster more frequent communication between the patient and the physician and encourage physicians to respond on the Web to patient ratings. Further research is needed to learn more about the motivation of physicians to respond or not respond to Web-based patient ratings.