Most older Americans don't fully rely on or trust online ratings of doctors, a new study finds.
Among men and women between the ages of 50 and 80, only 43% have looked online to see how patients rated a doctor, researchers report.
Of these, two-thirds chose a doctor because of good online ratings and reviews, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy. More than 2,000 older adults were canvassed and the results were published Jan. 6.
But online reviews were given as much weight as what these older adults heard from family and friends.
"People of all ages are turning to the web to find information, so it is not surprising that older Americans are looking up physician ratings online," said researcher Dr. David Hanauer, an associate professor at the University of Michigan.
"But it is a bit of a surprise that these online ratings now carry as much weight as recommendations from family and friends," he said in a university news release.
More than online ratings or word of mouth, 61% of older adults were swayed by the wait time for an appointment and about 40% by recommendations from other doctors or the doctor's level of experience.
Only 7% said they had posted a review or rating of a doctor online, the researchers found.
"Finding a new doctor can be stressful. Online rating might be one of many sources of information that can help older adults navigate this process," poll director Dr. Preeti Malani said in the release. She is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan.
The poll showed that older adults are media-savvy, the researchers noted.
Among those who did look at reviews, 69% said they wouldn't choose a doctor who had mostly negative reviews and 71% said that some bad reviews among lots of positive reviews wouldn't stop them from choosing a doctor.
"This survey makes it clear that although online physician reviews and ratings are important to older consumers, they are savvy about information gathered on the internet and have a healthy dose of skepticism around them, too," said Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP, which helped fund the poll.
For more on online doctor ratings, see Consumer Reports.