More and more consumers are using online ratings and reviews to select a doctor and presumably find them helpful.

But many physicians have an entirely different view, saying ratings and reviews increase job stress and strain the doctor/patient relationship, say researchers from Harvard Medical School.

Harvard researchers surveyed nearly 800 physicians on their views and use of online doctor ratings and reviews and about 500 consumers. The survey found that many physicians check out how patients rate them on consumer feedback sites such as Yelp and on hospital or health system sites that publish their own consumer rankings and comments about doctors in their network. 53% of physicians have checked out online what patients have to say about them at least once in the past year, according to results published this week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

But the majority of doctors—78%—say online ratings and have a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” impact on causing stress on the job. 46% of physicians also say ratings and reviews published online negatively influence the doctor/patient relationship.

About one-third of consumers now use a ratings and review web site to check out a doctor, say Harvard Medical researchers. Consumers tend to think of web sites such as Yelp.com as being more trustworthy than hospital-generated ratings and reviews—57% of patients note they “somewhat” or “strongly” agree that they trust the accuracy of data obtained from independent websites more than data from health systems’ patient experience surveys.

In contrast, 53% of doctors rated health system ratings more accurate, according to Harvard Medical.

Other research findings include:

  • One-fourth of patients report that publishing patient experience data publicly would affect their ability to given open feedback.
  • Only 21% of physicians but 51% of patients support posting comments online for all consumers.

Publishing online physician ratings and reviews is becoming more mainstream, says lead Harvard Medical researcher Allison Holiday.

The takeaway for hospitals, health systems and doctors is that they must learn how to use online ratings and reviews in ways that generate more patient trust and transparency, while not making it harder for  doctors to do their job—and to communicate with patients. “Publishing health system patient experience data publicly is not without significant challenges,” Holliday notes.