Background: Information from ratings sites are increasingly informing patient decisions related to health care and the selection of physicians.
Objective: The current study sought to determine the validity of online patient ratings of physicians through comparison with physician peer review.
Methods: We extracted 223,715 reviews of 41,104 physicians from 10 of the largest cities in the United States, including 1142 physicians listed as “America’s Top Doctors” through physician peer review. Differences in mean online patient ratings were tested for physicians who were listed and those who were not.
Results: Overall, no differences were found between the online patient ratings based upon physician peer review status. However, statistical differences were found for four specialties (family medicine, allergists, internal medicine, and pediatrics), with online patient ratings significantly higher for those physicians listed as a peer-reviewed “Top Doctor” versus those who were not.
Conclusions: The results of this large-scale study indicate that while online patient ratings are consistent with physician peer review for four nonsurgical, primarily in-office specializations, patient ratings were not consistent with physician peer review for specializations like anesthesiology. This result indicates that the validity of patient ratings varies by medical specialization.