Should you trust online reviews when picking a doctor?
Sandra Hermiston and Ross McLaughlin, CTV Vancouver
Published Wednesday, May 3, 2017 6:00AM PDT
A recent Statistics Canada survey found nearly 290,000 British Columbians are currently looking for a family doctor. But if you’re lucky enough to find one, should you believe the online reviews out there, like you would if you were picking a restaurant or a plumber?
J.C. de los Rios hasn’t had a medical check-up since he left his last doctor two years ago. He's been searching doctor review websites for months, but so far, hasn't had much luck.
"When you go onto one of these sites, you don't get enough information to really make a good decision about a doctor," he said.
The problem, according to a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is that websites like RateMD's and Yelp often have too few patient reviews to be meaningful.
"The JAMA study found that some doctors on these sites only had one review. And many had fewer than seven and we don't think that's enough feedback for such an important decision," said Trisha Calvo, health editor at Consumer Reports.
And you will probably have to look further for sensitive background information that could be critical to your choice.
“You won't find information on malpractice claims, sanctions or medical board actions on certain review sites,” explained Calvo.
For those you'll have to dig further. For starters, check in with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.
It handles complaints from the public and holds disciplinary hearings, and all of that information is available online.
You can also research the hospital where your doctor has privileges.
Unhappy with online reviews, de los Rios is relying on good old fashioned word of mouth to find a doctor and will try his wife's physician.
“I definitely need a doctor right now and it hasn't been easy,” he said.