Online Physician Ratings: Proceed with Caution Leading Physician Certification Organization Offers Consumers Tips for Using Doctor Rating Sites

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Online physician ratings allow patients to publicly and anonymously critique their doctors, providing one of the newest tools available to consumers seeking information to help them select a doctor. But can these online physician ratings be trusted? Experts from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) say that online ratings can be one useful tool, but caution consumers against relying solely on anonymous ratings.

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Online physician ratings can be helpful, but they don't provide a complete picture of a physician's qualifications and, because they reflect a patient's personal experience, they're likely to have a bias

Online physician ratings allow patients to publicly and anonymously critique their doctors, providing one of the newest tools available to consumers seeking information to help them select a doctor. But can these online physician ratings be trusted? Experts from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) say that online ratings can be one useful tool, but caution consumers against relying solely on anonymous ratings.

"Online physician ratings can be helpful, but they don't provide a complete picture of a physician's qualifications and, because they reflect a patient's personal experience, they're likely to have a bias," said ABMS president and CEO Kevin Weiss, MD. "Consumers who use online rating systems and other Internet sources for healthcare information should always check to see where the information comes from and how often it is updated. The more consumers know about the source, the better they can assess the information's value and reliability alongside information from other sources."

For 75 years, ABMS, which oversees 24 Member Boards that certify physicians in more than 145 specialties and subspecialties, has been a reliable and trusted resource for consumers seeking information on physician qualifications.

"Many Web sites that allow consumers to search by medical specialty or by a specific health condition don't always have the most current information about board certification," Dr. Weiss said. To access the most up-to-date information on certification status, consumers should check http://www.abms.org to see if their doctors are board certified by one of the 24 ABMS Member Boards. ABMS Member Board certification is widely recognized in healthcare as the gold standard for judging a physician's knowledge, experience and skills within a medical specialty.

In addition, ABMS offers the following tips to help consumers assess and make the best use of online ratings resources:

  •     Confirm the information. Many Web sites include self-reported physician information. A doctor may list a specialty but that doesn't guarantee that he/she is board certified in that particular area of medicine. Check with ABMS to verify specialty certification.
  •     Search for online physician ratings that permit a "360 degree evaluation," which allows consumers to read comments on an individual physician from a variety of sources, including other doctors, nurses and patients.
  •     Be aware that many online physician ratings do not consistently moderate content or review comments prior to posting. This means individuals can post negative or glowing comments about a doctor they've never even seen.
  •     When choosing a doctor, consider several sources of information rather than relying solely on a doctor rating Web site.
  •     For a small fee, consumers can also check for disciplinary actions against individual physicians through the Federation of State Medical Boards at http://www.fsmb.org.

About ABMS
Now in its 75th year, American Board of Medical Specialties is the preeminent medical organization overseeing physician certification in the United States. It assists its 24 Member Boards in their efforts to develop and implement educational and professional standards for the evaluation and certification of physician specialists. ABMS Member Boards provide physician certification information to ABMS for its certification verification service programs. ABMS is recognized by the key healthcare credentialing accreditation entities as a primary equivalent source of board certification data for medical specialists. Patients can visit http://www.abms.org or call toll-free 1-866-ASK-ABMS to see if their physician is board certified by an ABMS Member Board. For more information about ABMS visit http://www.abms.org or call (847) 491-9091.
The 24 Member Boards that make up the ABMS Board Enterprise covers over 145 medical specialties and subspecialties include: American Board of Allergy and Immunology, American Board of Anesthesiology, American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery, American Board of Dermatology, American Board of Emergency Medicine, American Board of Family Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine, American Board of Medical Genetics, American Board of Neurological Surgery, American Board of Nuclear Medicine, American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Board of Ophthalmology, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, American Board of Otolaryngology, American Board of Pathology, American Board of Pediatrics American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Board of Plastic Surgery, American Board of Preventive Medicine, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, American Board of Radiology, American Board of Surgery, American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and American Board of Urology.

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