I ran across a poll published by the American College of Physician Executives in January. They queried 5,500+ members.

The majority believed that patients’ use of online review sites by patients was low.

About 55 percent believed 25 percent or fewer patients have used an online physician rating site, and an additional 35 percent put the number between 25 and 50 percent. Only 1 percent of respondents believed more than 75 percent of patients had used the sites.

This conclusion is at odds with contemporary US culture. People, in general, are using online review sites to make all types of decisions. And healthcare is no exception. The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 1 in 5 Americans has consulted an online review of a physician – even if only 3-4% of Internet users have posted online reviews of healthcare services or providers. So, more people are reading than posting. No surprise, there.

According to the Pew survey, the wealthier the demographic, the more likely the patient has consulted an online review of a doctor.

Back to the American College of Physician Executives survey:

Most of the physician executives (69 percent) acknowledged they had checked their own profiles on at least one online consumer website that rates physicians.

Physician executives were also skeptical of external ratings performed by agencies such as Press

Ganey, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) and The Joint Commission, although they were viewed more favorably than online consumer sites.

The survey also gauged feelings about internal ratings, which earned much more favorable reviews.

Most physician executives did find consensus on one thing: As “value” replaces volume as measurement for health care outcomes, ratings are here to stay.

Patients naturally rely upon referring doctors, as well as friends/family, to help them choose their doctors. But, in 2013, patients are going to the Internet to make decisions about choosing a doctor. Or they are using the Internet to validate the referral made by another doctor or friends/family.

If members of the American College of Physician Executives queried their own patients, they might be surprised just how many of their patients read about them on the Inter