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Study: Online doctors' ratings should be taken with grain of salt

It is virtually guaranteed that every doctor has at least once gone online to check out ratings assigned to them by members of the public. For many patients, these ratings provide valuable feedback about whether a physician is capable, friendly, extraordinary, etc.

A new study sheds some light on the ratings, including research that compared ratings from three popular sites for doctors who had put on probation by the state's Medical Board. Physicians with problems for things such as professionalism, drug or alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, crime and personal illness scored somewhat lower than doctors who were not on probation, but their "ratings were not significantly different."

That's the conclusion of a surgeon who wrote recently on the subject for Physicians Weekly.

The anonymous doctor notes that physicians who had certain types of violations -- "medical documentation, incompetence, prescription negligence, fraud" -- had "significantly lower ratings." The study was done of doctors on probation in California.

The doctor-author also noted an interesting quirk: there was virtually no ratings difference between those physicians whose probation status was public and those whose probation status had not been published. To the author, that suggests that people who post online ratings either do not look up the doctor's probation status or they look it up and often don't really care about what they find.

For those New York doctors facing licensing issues, online ratings are secondary to worries about being able to continue in their chosen field. An attorney experienced in Office of Professional Misconduct (OPMC) investigations and related matters can protect rights throughout the process.

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