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Older adults are searching for health care providers the same way many Americans shop for vacation rentals, home contractors and restaurant reservations: online.
Nearly half (43 percent) of adults ages 50 to 80 have looked up doctor ratings and reviews online, according to new results from the University of Michigan's “National Poll on Healthy Aging.” And among those who checked ratings in the past year, 65 percent did so to read up on a doctor they were considering, and 34 percent did so to find a new physician, the survey found.
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"There may be an assumption that [online ratings] are really more for a younger generation. But the older adults, they utilize health care more, and this shows [online ratings] are a relatively important source of information for them,” says David Hanauer, a physician and clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan, who contributed to the research.
How long it takes to get an appointment and the practitioner's years of experience are two of the most important factors adults take into consideration when selecting a physician, the survey found. But online ratings matter, too — almost as much as recommendations from family and friends, respondents said.
"It's just showing that these ratings are really becoming an integral part of the way people are making decisions these days, for any age,” Hanauer adds.
Best practices for finding a physician online
Typing a quick query into a web browser is simple enough, but landing on the right doctor isn't a guarantee. Here are some best practices.
Use a trusted site. The internet is a crowded place, so if you're browsing doctor ratings and reviews online, be sure to do so on a reputable site, advises David Meyers, a family physician and chief physician for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).