/ Online Doctor
Online Doctor Reviews

Online Doctor Reviews

The internet allows us to read reviews of all kinds of different services, from restaurants to doctors. It can be extremely helpful when you're looking for more information on a service. Online reviews give us a sense of expectations and help us decide if we want to check out the service for ourselves, whatever it may be.

Many people have started choosing doctors based on online reviews. When it comes to our health care we all want to have a good experience. Of course, we also want to receive quality care; but patient satisfaction and quality of care don't necessarily go hand-in-hand.

Read on to learn more about the considerations and precautions to take when reading online doctor reviews and check out some comprehensive reviews we've curated of online doctor services.  

Online Doctor Reviews: Take a Bit of Caution

A patient might go to a doctor and receive great care, but not be satisfied with the doctor, office, or their general experience. It could also be that a patient especially likes a doctor, but does not get the best quality of care. The doctor in the first example might get a bad review whereas the doctor in the second example might get 5-stars. But which doctor would you rather see?

Reviewers Are Not Medical Experts

Online doctor reviews are patient based. This means that online doctor reviews are a great resource for assessing patient experience and satisfaction, but they typically come up short when it comes to assessing quality of care.

Who Holds Responsibility?

Negative patient experiences might have nothing to do with the doctor they are reviewing. It has been found that negative reviews are more associated with long wait times, unhelpful secretaries, etc. than with the actual doctors.

Monetization of Online Doctor Reviews

Several of the most prominent sites that provide online doctor reviews take payments from doctors in exchange for additional promotion. This means that the most visible doctors might not be the best doctors, but are simply paying more money. The upside to this is that when doctors pay to be listed, they will have more complete information and are more likely to respond to comments and reviews.

Incomplete Listings

Some really excellent doctors might find listing/review services to be too much of an expense. Sites, where doctors pay to be listed, will not have exhaustive lists and might be missing some of the best doctors.

Inconsistencies Between Sites

If online doctor reviews were perfectly accurate, then the overall review should be the same from site to site, but the opposite is the case. The Hospital for Special Surgery conducted a study and found that there was little correlation between reviews of individual doctors between the sites.

Online Doctor Reviews Are Not Moderated

Anybody can post a review about a doctor, even someone who has never been to the doctor. And even for someone who has been to the doctor, the review might exaggerate or even lie. We have all heard the saying “the customer is always right,” but that is not always true. There is no way to assess the accuracy of a reviewer’s statements.

Selection Bias

Sometimes only patients with a positive (or negative) experience are driven to write a review. This type of bias could arise from doctors recommending patients to leave a review only if they expect a positive review.

Number of Reviews

Restaurants and retail products might have thousands of reviews. But sometimes for doctors, there are only a few. If there are less than half-a-dozen reviews, then do not take the overall rating as particularly representative.

Pros to Online Doctor Reviews

You may find you need to start seeing a new doctor or perhaps see a specialist that is new to you. When searching for a new doctor online doctor reviews can be a helpful tool, just keep in mind their limitations.

  • Search filters. Many online doctor review services make it easy to apply filters to your searches such as doctors within a certain radius and their specialties, languages spoken, and more.
  • Additional features. Some services might have additional benefits like booking appointments within their site.
  • Visibility. Online doctor reviews allow people to conduct broad searches of doctors. This can enable patients to discover many options they would not have otherwise.
  • Common themes. When reading online doctor reviews, sometimes common themes breakthrough. If negative reviews are frequently referencing the same problem (for example coding errors on the bill), that suggests a doctor or their office is less reliable.

Government Ratings

Hospitals that are Medicare-certified are required to provide the government with data relating to hospital performance. A government initiative called Hospital Compare on Medicare.gov is designed to provide assessments of doctors based on clinical outcome metrics rather than patient based reviews (although they have those too). For participating doctors and facilities, this is the best resource for detailed online doctor reviews.

The categories that Hospital Compare reviews are:

  • General information
  • Survey of patients experiences
  • Timely and effective care
  • Complications
  • Readmissions and deaths
  • Use of medical imaging
  • Payment and value of care

Within each category, Hospital Ccompare provides data for subcategories such as sepsis care, blood clot prevention, cancer care, heart failure, pneumonia, 30-day death rates, rates of infection, and many others.

Comparison between subcategories can allow you to scrutinize a hospital with a high degree of detail. For example, you can view a graph comparing the rate of intestinal infections of 5 hospitals of your choice as well as the national average.

Medicare.gov provides the public with similar tools for different types of healthcare:

Physician Compare works a little bit differently than the others. Their website is better designed and easier to navigate including resource sections for patients and professionals.

Physician Compare provides performance scores and patient survey scores. The performance scores are based on information reported to Medicare by the organization. This type of data helps us understand clinical outcomes and care quality.

Performance scores through Physician Compare provide an assessment of:

  • Preventative care: general health
  • Preventative care: cancer screening
  • Patient safety
  • Care planning
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Behavioral health

Patient surveys scores help us understand patient experiences. The following categories are scored through patient surveys:

  • Getting timely care, appointments, and information
  • How well clinicians communicate
  • Health promotion and education
  • Patience rating of clinicians
  • Attention to patient medicine cost

Medicare also has a useful “Guide to Choosing a Hospital”.

Where to Find Online Doctor Reviews

There are many options for browsing online doctor reviews. Some are specifically made for doctors and others are more general. The sites specifically made for doctors all provide an overview with patient reviews as well as search tools like filtering and sorting.

Overviews of doctors provide a paragraph about the doctor including their professional statements, biography, education, and background. You will also be able to see what types of insurance they take as well as office information (phone numbers, addresses, etc.). Most of these overviews include awards received, languages spoken, gender, locations or affiliations, and their specialties.

Doctor specific review sites:

  • PlushCare
  • HealthGrades
  • ZocDoc
  • Vital
  • RateMDs
  • WebMD

General review sites are comparatively limited, yet are still some of the most used. The overviews provided by these websites usually only provide office information and an overall 5-star rating without subcategories. Their filter and sorting options are also considerably limited compared to review sites that are doctor specific. These sites also differ in that they review clinics, organizations, and hospitals rather than individual doctors.

General review sites that include doctors reviews:

  • Yelp
  • Google

PlushCare

Here at PlushCare, we pride ourselves in hiring the best doctors. When you book an appointment on our website you will see a list of doctors, available appointment times, and 5-star ratings. You can click on a doctor to view their years of experience, education, background, languages spoken, and patient reviews.

HealthGrades

HealthGrades has the most categories of information, 5-star ratings, search filters, and sorting tools. They also offer advanced marketing tools to providers such as customer relationship management and new patient acquisition, which can benefit the patient experience.

Overviews on HealthGrades provide:

  • Background checks (malpractice claims, disciplinary actions, etc.; unique to HealthGrades)
  • Conditions they treat
  • Insurances
  • Biography
  • Specialties
  • Board certifications
  • Awards
  • Affiliated hospitals
  • Age (unique to HealthGrades)
  • Doctor’s Gender

Reviews include 5-star ratings for:

  • Trustworthiness
  • Explanation of conditions
  • Answers questions
  • Time well spent
  • Scheduling
  • Office environments
  • Staff friendliness

HealthGrades search filters:

  • Availability
  • Distance
  • Insurance
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Doctor’s gender
  • Age (unique to HealthGrades)
  • Specialty
  • Your condition
  • Procedure

You can sort results by:

  • Best match
  • Distance
  • Last name
  • Patient satisfaction

ZocDoc

ZocDoc has a few additional features aside from browsing doctors and reading reviews. You can view and book available appointment times within ZocDoc. The downside is that not all doctors integrate their appointment system with ZocDoc. This results in some offices calling to reschedule appointments that were originally booked in ZocDoc.

When using ZocDoc you can customize follow up reminders for checkups.

Another benefit of using ZocDoc is that you can fill out necessary forms before going to the doctor. These are the same forms that you would generally fill out in the waiting room.

ZocDoc is only available in certain cities.

Overviews on ZocDoc provide:

  • Professional statements
  • Insurances
  • Practice names
  • Board certifications
  • Education and training
  • Awards and publications
  • ZocDoc in-house awards
  • Languages spoken
  • Doctor’s gender
  • Office locations

Reviews include five-star ratings for:

  • Bedside manner
  • Wait time

ZocDoc search filters:

  • Insurance
  • Illness
  • Doctor’s gender
  • Availability
  • Special hours (unique to ZocDoc)
  • Languages spoken
  • If they see children (unique to ZocDoc)

ZocDoc sort options:

  • Distance
  • Wait time (unique to ZocDoc)

Vitals

Vitals is very similar to previous online doctor review sites. Vitals has a “BOOK APPOINTMENT” button, but unlike ZocDoc, it takes you to an external site. They have a lot of review subcategories, but there is a little less information in the overview and you cannot sort search results.

Overviews on Vitals include:

  • Years of experience (unique to Vitals)
  • Education
  • Awards and board certifications
  • Specialties and expertise
  • Locations
  • Insurances
  • Credentials

Review subcategories include:

  • Easy appointment
  • Friendly staff
  • Bedside manner
  • Promptness
  • Accurate diagnosis
  • Spends time with me

Search filters include:

  • Provider type
  • Online appointments
  • Patient reviews
  • Insurance
  • Years of experience
  • Distance
  • Specialty
  • Condition

RateMDs

RateMDs has limited filter options and no sorting, but it is the only site on this list that provides detailed ratings for both individual doctors and for entire facilities.

Overviews include:

  • Biography
  • Languages spoken
  • Education
  • Areas of expertise
  • Awards
  • Publications and research
  • Locations
  • Insurances
  • Doctor’s gender

Review subcategories include:

  • Staff
  • Punctuality
  • Helpful
  • Knowledge

Search filters include:

  • Doctor's gender
  • Specialty

WebMD

WebMD has a physician directory that includes online doctor reviews. WebMD's directory is not paid for by doctors. This results in extensive listings, but many of them have missing information or are not yet rated. This is the only site that clearly distinguished online doctor reviews from reviews of their offices.

Overviews include:

  • Experience
  • Specialties
  • Education
  • Insurances
  • Languages spoken
  • Office information

Review subcategories of doctors include:

  • Explains conditions in treatment
  • Takes time to answer my questions
  • Provides follow-up as needed

Review subcategories of offices include:

  • Scheduling flexibility
  • Office cleanliness
  • Courteous staff

Search filters include:

  • Specialty
  • Conditions
  • Procedures
  • Insurance
  • Years of experience
  • Distance
  • Conditions treated
  • Procedures performed
  • Hospital affiliations

Sort results by:

  • Distance
  • Ratings
  • Name
  • Years of experience

Yelp

Today Yelp.com is best known for reviews on restaurants and other businesses, but Yelp was actually founded with healthcare in mind. There are many online doctor reviews on Yelp, but they are reviews on facilities and much less detailed than the other sites above. Overviews are limited to office information and reviews on Yelp are simply an overall 5-star rating.

Search filters include:

  • Distance
  • Price
  • Features (e.g. open now, appointment only, gender-neutral restrooms, free Wi-Fi, military discounts, Accepts credit cards)
  • Specialties

Sort results by:

  • Recommended
  • Highest rate
  • Most reviewed

Google

Browsing doctors is actually more difficult with Google. A facility or doctor must come up through search traffic. Once you find a facility there are simple overall 5-star reviews and general office information. Google Maps is a great way to visualize options in your area, but it is worth looking elsewhere for reviews.

Reviews and Modern HealthCare

While it's smart to keep in mind the potential biases and other shortcomings of online doctor reviews, they also grant us access to more information regarding our healthcare. Technology is transforming our healthcare system making it easier, more accessible and more affordable  than ever before.

Online healthcare platforms such as PlushCare take this to a new level. You can meet with a doctor online who will hear your symptoms and medical history, give you a diagnosis, and treatment plan, including prescriptions, all in a matter of minutes. Waiting rooms and wasted time on doctor appointments are a thing of the past. Experience better healthcare by booking an appointment today.

Read More About Online Doctor Reviews

Doctor on phone
Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

Ryan has a background in geochemical research and enjoys writing on technical subjects like health and science. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT and can be found recreating in the local mountains.

Read More