Angie’s List can help you locate a reputable handyman. Yelp can push you in the direction of the perfect restaurant for your anniversary dinner. Amazon’s consumer reviews can even help you choose the TV that will fit in the corner of your den. So why wouldn’t you turn to the Internet to find your next doctor?
Jennifer Stevens, 39, did just that when she needed an obstetrician for her first child. Not wanting to reveal her pregnancy too soon by asking friends for suggestions for a good OB, she turned to the Web for more information on potential physicians. She soon found that a lot of the information she needed to make this important decision was missing. “A lot of sites gave stars, but I didn’t really know what those stars meant. I just wasn’t comfortable picking an OB based on that kind of vague information," she said.
Lindsay Luthe, a 30-year old Washington, D.C. resident, consulted the popular ratings website Yelp after asking her friends to recommend a physician. “I perused the reviews for this particular doctor and saw how positive they were. Those reviews, combined with my friend's personal recommendation, led me to make an appointment with the doctor. I think I even used the contact info on the Yelp page to call the office," she said.
The success of physician ratings websites—such as HealthGrades, or RateMyMD, among many others—has been mixed. It’s easier than ever to find at least a little more information about your next partner in health. But patients are still frustrated with the dearth of details online, and remain confused about how to evaluate the facts they find there. Some experts have suggested that these sites are still not as useful as they could be—in some cases, misleading potential patients with incorrect or out-of-date information.