Posted On: February 28, 2013 by Patrick A. Malone

How Parents Choose a Pediatrician in the Internet Age

For most people, the Internet is a primary resource for a range of services from restaurant reviews to insurance policy comparisons. Medical/health apps are popular (and varied in quality and usefulness—see our blog ), as are hospital and doctor rating services.

But when it comes to how parents choose doctors for their children, online resources are a decidedly generational preference. Gender, too, plays a role in how much a parent consults the Internet.

So says a recent survey by the Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, a project of the University of Michigan (UM). Only 1 in 4 parents, it says, consider doctor rating sites very important in choosing a practitioner for their children.

Parents younger than 30 (44 in 100) and mothers (30 in 100) were more likely to say that online doctor ratings were very important than older parents (21 in 100) and fathers (19 in 100).

Other results of the poll include:

  • More than 9 in 10 parents rated “accepts my health insurance” as very important.

  • About 65 in 100 parents rated a convenient office location as very important.

  • More than 50 in 100 parents rated a doctor’s years of experience as very important.

  • Nearly 1 in 3 parents who have gone online to view doctors’ ratings said that they have selected a doctor for their children because of good ratings or reviews. Nearly 1 in 3 said they avoided a doctor for their children because of bad ratings or reviews.

  • Very few adults (5 in 100) said they have ever posted ratings or reviews of doctors.

In a UM news release, Dr. David A. Hanauer, a professor of pediatrics at the university who was involved in the polling project, said, “The small percentage of people who actually post reviews suggests that people who depend on online ratings may not be getting an accurate picture of a pediatrician’s care.”

So how much should you rely on online ratings? Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the poll, offered this perspective: “[T] here is currently no oversight or regulation for rating websites that collect ‘crowd-sourced’ information about doctors. It is hard to verify the reliability of the ratings or whether they are subject to manipulation.”

But he also pointed out in the news release that word-of-mouth isn’t exactly an objective measure of quality either. And that a personal source of information might be perceived as more directly accountable, and therefore more trustworthy.

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