Association Between Web-Based Physician Ratings and Physician Disciplinary Convictions: Retrospective Observational Study

J Med Internet Res. 2020 May 14;22(5):e16708. doi: 10.2196/16708.


Background: Physician rating websites are commonly used by the public, yet the relationship between web-based physician ratings and health care quality is not well understood.

Objective: The objective of our study was to use physician disciplinary convictions as an extreme marker for poor physician quality and to investigate whether disciplined physicians have lower ratings than nondisciplined matched controls.

Methods: This was a retrospective national observational study of all disciplined physicians in Canada (751 physicians, 2000 to 2013). We searched ratings (2005-2015) from the country's leading online physician rating website for this group, and for 751 matched controls according to gender, specialty, practice years, and location. We compared overall ratings (out of a score of 5) as well as mean ratings by the type of misconduct. We also compared ratings for each type of misconduct and punishment.

Results: There were 62.7% (471/751) of convicted and disciplined physicians (cases) with web-based ratings and 64.6% (485/751) of nondisciplined physicians (controls) with ratings. Of 312 matched case-control pairs, disciplined physicians were rated lower than controls overall (3.62 vs 4.00; P<.001). Disciplined physicians had lower ratings for all types of misconduct and punishment-except for physicians disciplined for sexual offenses (n=90 pairs; 3.83 vs 3.86; P=.81). Sexual misconduct was the only category in which mean ratings for physicians were higher than those for other disciplined physicians (3.63 vs 3.35; P=.003).

Conclusions: Physicians convicted for disciplinary misconduct generally had lower web-based ratings. Physicians convicted of sexual misconduct did not have lower ratings and were rated higher than other disciplined physicians. These findings may have future implications for the identification of physicians providing poor-quality care.

Keywords: patient satisfaction; patient-centered care; quality improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physicians / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Professional Misconduct / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies