Alert
Close

Top the Treasure Hunt leaderboard by 5 p.m. Friday to win a $100 gift card! Learn more

HIGHLIGHTS

Open
AARP Games Tournament

REAL POSSIBILITIES

AARP Real Possibilities
Car buying made easy with the AARP Auto Buying Program

Download the ipad App

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

share your thoughts

What does the health care law mean to you? Your story is important. We read and learn from every story and it helps us in our educational efforts. We may even use your comments (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

My Medical Manager

The Pros and Cons of Rating Doctors

Why online reviews of physicians get mixed reviews

When editors of Consumer Reports rate cars or refrigerators, potential buyers get sophisticated advice from engineers and technical people who know what they are doing. But when patients evaluate physicians, it’s another matter altogether.

Sign up for the AARP Health Newsletter.

Aside from purely objective material (location, education, specialty), the information readers get on physician rating sites is mostly useless, critics say. One major drawback: too few ratings. Indeed, there is widespread agreement that the more ratings posted about a doctor, the more accurate the picture of the physician’s performance.

Some physicians are so incensed by what they call the unfairness of the ratings that they are asking patients to sign waivers — critics call them gag orders — promising not to post any reviews. And a few doctors reportedly give bribes or discounts for good reviews.

Yet physician ratings could turn out to be even more important than user ratings for the latest coffeemaker or family car.

As medical consumers, we want the best care for our money. In addition, experts say, health insurance carriers want the best physicians delivering the most efficient care at the lowest cost. And physicians themselves want to know about other physicians, how they’re handling swelling streams of patients and what those patients think of them.

More websites rating doctors

Accordingly, the list-makers who rate physicians are arming to do battle — meaning, in their argot, to grab eyeballs, advertisers or even fees. The biggest players are Angie’s List, RateMDs, HealthGrades, Vitals and Vimo.

In all, there are more than 30 sites that compile patient opinions in various formats and put them on display, according to a 2008 report by Ruth Given, an independent health economist and analyst for many Internet companies.

But each site is far from perfect. Because the sites are relatively new, most doctors have just a few postings, and it’s rare to see a physician with more than 100 comments. Moreover, consumer groups worry that people searching for valid, reliable assessments of doctors too often find only highly personal, emotional opinions —  from angry rants to fulsome praise.

Are the comments fair?


The American Medical Association contends that these ratings should be viewed with healthy skepticism because the comments are subjective and not statistically valid. “The downside of the Internet is that things are so instantaneous, you can put something down very quickly, and it may not be exactly what you’d want to say in the light of day,” says AMA president James Rohack.

One of the few online enterprises taking an organized, scientific approach to doctor ratings is the one organized by Robert Krughoff of Washington, D.C. , who says he is trying to set up a system that’s fair to doctors and helpful to patients. A lawyer and an old hand at delivering consumer information, Krughoff is the founder of the Center for the Study of Services. He publishes the service-rating magazine Consumers’ Checkbook in several U.S. cities; the publication accepts no advertising and is supported by fees from subscribers. Not long ago he told Family Practice News, a trade publication that goes to 70,000 physicians: “Outcomes are much more difficult to measure in health care. Consumers know right away if the plumber is good. With a health care provider, they may not know until five or 10 years out.”

Next: A better way to evaluate docs? >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Woman trying on glasses in optometrists shop

Members save up to 60% off eye exams and 30% off eyeglasses at Pearle Vision.

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

AARP/Walgreens Wellness Bus Stops in Clarksdale, MS

Members can get exclusive points offers from Walgreens and Duane Reade.

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.