Checking online reviews has become routine for consumers deciding on everything from cars to restaurants. But when it comes to choosing a doctor, the majority of parents aren’t convinced online ratings are all that trustworthy, says a new survey from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the University of Michigan Health System.

In February, as part of its monthly national poll on children’s health, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital surveyed about 1,400 parents with at least one child age 17 or younger. The survey found nearly one-third of parents had looked at online doctor ratings for themselves or a family member over the past year.

Moms are more likely than dads to visit a physician rating site—36% to 22%, the report says.  Among parents who have considered online ratings, two-thirds say they either chose or avoided doctors based on what they read.

But even as they take ratings into account, many parents are skeptical about physician rating sites and reviews.

Websites reviewing doctors are readily available, but concerns about how trustworthy they are may be preventing parents from using them broadly.

More than two-thirds of parents believe some online doctor reviews are fake, while slightly fewer say there are not enough ratings to make a good decision, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital survey. “Online rating sites are becoming an increasingly common and potentially influential source of information for parents as they choose a doctor,” says Dr. David Hanauer, a C.S. Mott pediatrician and author of the survey. “Websites reviewing doctors are readily available, but concerns about how trustworthy they are may be preventing parents from using them broadly.”


Nonetheless, most parts who checked out online doctor ratings and reviews say they turned out to be on the mark: 87% say the online ratings accurately reflected their experiences during an office visit.

Older parents also generally had more concerns about online doctor ratings than younger parents, according to the survey. Of parents age 30 and older, 71% were concerned about the possibility of fake reviews compared to 59% of those under the age of 30.

Other findings include:

  • More than 50% of parents feel doctors may influence who leaves ratings.
  • Among parents who have created an online rating about a doctor nearly one-third (30%) reported that the doctor or office staff had asked them to do so.
  • Older parents (65%) were more concerned about the low number of ratings compared to younger parents (55%).

“The majority of parents expressed serious concerns about doctor rating websites that call into question the objectivity and authenticity of ratings,” the survey says, “For example, most healthcare rating websites have a low number of reviews or ratings per doctor, which suggests they may not represent the full range of patient experiences.”

For parents to find online doctor reviews more useful—and trustworthy—physicians need to become more involved in generating higher quality rankings, Hanauer says. “Doctor rating sites have the potential to help make the patient-physician relationship more service-oriented,” Hanauer says. “In order for online rating sites to become a more accepted and useful tool, doctors will need to be more engaged in the process, in ways that assure that ratings are authentic.”