WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Most parents still rely on word-of-mouth recommendations when choosing their child's doctor, according to the latest University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital national poll on children's health. But online ratings are becoming a bigger part of the decision-making process, the survey found.
Younger parents and mothers are more likely than others to view these online scores as very important, the poll revealed.
"More and more families are going online not only to find out about medical conditions but also in their search for the right doctor for their child," David Hanauer, a primary-care pediatrician and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, said in a university news release. "What we found in the poll was that the perceived importance of online ratings appears to differ widely based on factors such as parent age and gender."
The poll showed that 92 percent of parents believe finding a pediatrician who accepts their health insurance is very important and 52 percent feel strongly about the doctor's experience. A convenient office location is also very important to 65 percent of parents.
The researchers noted that 25 percent of parents believe considering a doctor's online rating is very important. They found that 30 percent of parents who have gone online in their quest for a doctor have based their final decision on a doctor's online ratings, while 30 percent have ruled out a doctor because of poor online ratings or reviews.
Women are more likely than men to view online ratings as an important part of their decision-making process, the poll showed. Although 30 percent of mothers view these ratings as very important, only 19 percent of fathers felt the same way.
Age also plays a role in whether parents believe online reviews are important to their decision on a pediatrician. The poll showed that 44 percent of parents younger than 30 years old think these online ratings sites are important, compared to 21 percent of parents 30 or older.
"These data suggest that younger families are more likely to rely on online ratings, which means over time we'd expect the use of these websites will keep increasing," said Hanauer.
Although more parents are evaluating online doctor reviews, just 5 percent of adults said they have posted a doctor rating or review.
"The small percentage of people who actually post reviews suggests that people who depend on online ratings may not be getting an accurate picture of a pediatrician's care," noted Hanauer.
Poll director Dr. Matthew Davis said there is not enough evidence to assess whether parents can trust the doctor ratings and reviews they find online.
"There is currently no oversight or regulation for rating websites that collect 'crowd-sourced' information about doctors," he said. "It is hard to verify the reliability of the ratings or whether they are subject to manipulation."
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides tips on how to choose a pediatrician.