News: Few patients use online ratings to choose physicians

October 1, 2008

In California, few patients use the Internet to chek out physicians' ratings.

Although almost two thirds of adults in California had access to the Internet in 2007, only about one quarter of them used it to check out physicians' ratings, a Harris Interactive poll of about 1,000 people showed. Even more striking, according to a report in American Medical News (6/23-30/08), only 2% of those surveyed changed their physicians based on information posted on a rating site. Nonetheless, these percentages represent an increase from 2004, when 19% of Californians checked out physicians' ratings and 1% made a change based on their findings. Few respondents to the poll, which was commissioned by the California Healthcare Foundation, changed their hospital or health plan in 2004 or 2007 because of ratings, either. Overall, more Californians used the Internet for care-related purposes in 2007 than in 2004.

Respondents who used the Internet in 2007 for managing their health care were most likely to be seeking information about specific medical conditions and prescription drugs (56%). About 34% of Internet users reviewed claims or obtained benefits information via the Internet, and 32% used the technology to find a physician in their health plan's network. Internet users were least likely to purchase health insurance (10%), fill a prescription online (12%), get advice from a physician via e-mail (13%), or make an appointment to see a provider (13%).