Physician-rating web sites: Ethical implications

American Society for Surgery of the Hand Ethics and Professionalism Committee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Purpose To understand the ethical and professional implications of physician behavior changes secondary to online physician-rating Web sites (PRWs). Methods The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) Ethics and Professionalism Committee surveyed the ASSH membership regarding PRWs. We sent a 14-item questionnaire to 2,664 active ASSH members who practice in both private and academic settings in the United States. Results We received 312 responses, a 12% response incidence. More than 65% of the respondents had a slightly or highly unfavorable impression of these Web sites. Only 34% of respondents had ever updated or created a profile for PRWs, although 62% had observed inaccuracies in their profile. Almost 90% of respondents had not made any changes in their practice owing to comments or reviews. One-third of respondents had solicited favorable reviews from patients, and 3% of respondents have paid to improve their ratings. Conclusions PRWs are going to become more prevalent, and more research is needed to fully understand the implications. There are several ethical implications that PRWs pose to practicing physicians. We contend that it is morally unsound to pay for good reviews. The recourse for physicians when an inaccurate and potentially libelous review has been written is unclear. Some physicians have required patients to sign a waiver preventing them from posting negative comments online. We propose the development of a task force to assess the professional, ethical, and legal implications of PRWs, including working with companies to improve accuracy of information, oversight, and feedback opportunities. Clinical relevance It is expected that PRWs will play an increasing role in the future; it is unclear whether there will be a uniform reporting system, or whether these online ratings will influence referral patterns and/or quality improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-110.e1
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Doctor rating
  • online physician reviews
  • physician-rating Web sites
  • public reporting
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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