Patients are increasingly using the Internet to rate their physicians. In a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Felix Greaves and colleagues examined the usage of NHS Choices, a government website that encourages patients to rate the quality of family practices in England, and associations between web-based patient ratings and conventional measures of patient experience and clinical quality in primary care.
Greaves and colleagues obtained all ratings of family practices posted on NHS Choices between October 2009 and December 2010. They then examined associations between patient ratings and family practice and population characteristics. Associations between ratings and survey measures of patient experience and clinical outcomes were also examined.
They reported that 61% of the 8089 family practices in England were rated, and 69% of ratings would recommend their family practice. Practices serving younger, less deprived, and more densely populated areas were more likely to be rated. There were some associations with survey measures of patient experience (but only weak associations with measures of clinical processes and outcomes).
The authors concluded that the frequency of patients rating their family physicians on the Internet is variable in England, but the ratings are generally positive and are moderately associated with other measures of patient experience and weakly associated with clinical quality. Although potentially flawed, patient ratings on the Internet may provide an opportunity for organizational learning and, as it becomes more common, another method to look at the quality of primary care.