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Hey, It’s 2007! Let’s Rate Doctors!

Now imagine that in hundreds of interactions, a single person decides to give that waitress or doctor an online rating or review at one rating website. One of dozens. Because the population of people who could possibly rate this individual are so much smaller, that one has a much bigger impact on that professional’s score. But do you know this, does anyone tell you this? No, instead rating doctors online is compared to rating Internet videos.

Yet the latest rage is to start rating people on their livelihoods. Students have been doing it with their teachers for years, and now companies want to start doing it with doctors. And not with discrete, detailed criteria, but with broad, sweeping generalizations and categories that group together things like “accurate diagnosis” with receiving “lifestyle changes” advice. Really? Are those two really in the same category? Or how about getting a response to one’s questions… Is that really in the same category as getting a timely appointment?

Rating doctors really shouldn’t be like rating an Internet video or whether someone is “hot or not.” A broad category of ratings shouldn’t place a doctor who provides accurate information but wasn’t very personable in the same place as a doctor who provides wildly inaccurate misinformation but was very agreeable and listened to all of my questions. The first is pretty much the norm for many doctors nowadays, while the latter is grounds for a medical liability lawsuit. Yet some websites would have you rate the two in the same category without noting any difference between these two very different issues.

But What’s Important to Me? It’s Supposed to Be About Me, Remember?

Worse yet, some of these online doctor rating sites don’t let people tell them what’s important to them in searching for a healthcare provider. For example, maybe it’s really important to me that a doctor returns my call in a timely manner and listens to my concerns. The site has this information, but it won’t let me search by this criteria. You’re left with the usual search by geographic region or by gross recommendations (e.g., the recommendation averages of all 1 or 2 users who’ve seen the same professional).

Should we really be showing ratings based upon a single data point or two? If this were a review of a book or Internet video, sure, why not? Who cares? But for someone’s livelihood? Should we be playing so fast and loose with the data??

What’s the outcome of these ratings efforts? Right now, I’d say they are pretty rough around the edges and showing us what, “Hot or not” or Circuit City showed us circa 2005.

But this is 2007 and people expect and want more. You can do doctor ratings well if you do them thoroughly and with respect to the profession. You can do doctor ratings badly if you treat it like rating Internet videos or rating a stove or have people who have little healthcare experience or background designing your ratings criteria. People don’t want unreliable ratings. They don’t want broad categories that don’t take into account their specific needs and wants. And they certainly don’t want any more unreliable data, given that most people have had enough of that in dealing with the health care system already. If an online rating system can’t do better than this, they should throw in the towel before the lawsuits begin.

Hey, It’s 2007! Let’s Rate Doctors!

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Hey, It’s 2007! Let’s Rate Doctors!. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.