Background: Internet-based social networking tools that allow users to share content have enabled a new form of public reporting of physician performance: the physician-rating website.
Objective: To describe the structure and content of physician-rating websites and to assess the extent to which a patient might find them valuable.
Methods: We searched Google for websites that allowed patients to review physicians in the US. We included websites that met predetermined criteria, identified common elements of these websites, and recorded website characteristics. We then searched the websites for reviews of a random sample of 300 Boston physicians. Finally, we separately analyzed quantitative and narrative reviews.
Results: We identified 33 physician-rating websites, which contained 190 reviews for 81 physicians. Most reviews were positive (88%). Six percent were negative, and six percent were neutral. Generalists and subspecialists did not significantly differ in number or nature of reviews. We identified several narrative reviews that appeared to be written by the physicians themselves.
Conclusion: Physician-rating websites offer patients a novel way to provide feedback and obtain information about physician performance. Despite controversy surrounding these sites, their use by patients has been limited to date, and a majority of reviews appear to be positive.