HealthDay News — More than one-quarter of parents in the United States use online rating sites to choose a pediatrician for their children, indicated the results of a study published in Pediatrics.

“The convenience and instant availability of online physician ratings have the potential to empower patients and families by providing them with information to make more informed choices about health-care costs and quality, and to encourage improved care among [providers],” wrote David A. Hanauer, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues.

To understand parental awareness, perception, and use of provider-rating sites for choosing primary-care clinicians for their children, the investigators conducted a nationally representative survey using 3,563 adults who had at least one child aged 17 years or younger living at home.

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All participants were asked about familiarity with, and usage of, online ratings sites. They were also asked to indicate how they would handle one of three hypothetical scenarios. In all three cases, neighbors had recommended their child’s health-care clinician.

However, in the first scenario, no online ratings information was given, while in the second the participants were told the recommended provider had a high rating online. In the third scenario, the provider had received a low rating online.

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Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they knew about provider-rating sites, and 28% said they had used one to choose a pediatrician. The participants indicated they were significantly more likely to follow a neighbor’s recommendation to choose a particular provider if that provider also had high rankings online, compared with no online information. But, in the case of a bad online rating, participants indicated they were significantly less likely to choose that provider, despite a neighbor’s positive comments.

“Our study underscores the importance of examining awareness about, as well as use of, online physician ratings when parents are making [provider] choices about their children,” concluded the inspectors.


  1. Hanauer D et al. Pediatrics. 2014; doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-0681