Can We Trust Online Physician Ratings? Evidence from Cardiac Surgeons in Florida
Susan F. Lu
University of Rochester - Simon Business School
May 10, 2014
Simon Business School Working Paper No. FR 14-05
Despite heated debate about the pros and cons of online physician ratings, very little systematic work examines the correlation between physicians’ online ratings and their actual medical performance. Using patients’ ratings of physicians at RateMDs.com and the Florida Hospital Discharge data, we investigate whether online ratings reflect physicians’ medical performance by means of a two-stage model that takes into account patients’ ratings-based selection of cardiac surgeons. Estimation results show that five-star surgeons are associated with significantly lower mortality rates and are more likely to be selected by sicker patients compared with lower-rated surgeons. In contrast, not accounting for patients’ rating-based selection leads to the opposite outcome: patients treated by five-star surgeons had higher mortality rates than patients treated by surgeons rated below five stars. Further, we find that patients are not naïve: they know how to use different dimensions of online rating information when choosing a surgeon. Our findings suggest that we can trust online physician ratings, at least of cardiac surgeons.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 41
Keywords: word of mouth, physician ratings, patient selection, quality disclosure
JEL Classification: L15, I1
Date posted: March 13, 2014 ; Last revised: August 23, 2014
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