It’s the 21st century version of the trusted neighborly reference: the online rating.

Whether it’s reviews of services or products, people are increasingly relying on online rating systems and reviews to make purchasing decisions. According to a 2013 study conducted by BrightLocal, almost 75 percent of consumers trust a business more or less based on online reviews.

But is this any way to find a pediatrician for your child?

According to a 2014 study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, the answer is increasingly yes. Researchers at the University of Michigan recently looked at parents’ use of online physician rating sites and found that parents are more aware of doctor-rating sites and relying on them to choose their pediatrician.

To reach this conclusion, researchers gave 1,619 parents a survey asking if they would be more or less likely to choose a physician based on a neighbor’s recommendation if the doctor also had positive online reviews, negative online reviews, or none at all. They found that positive or negative online reviews were “significantly more likely” to influence the choice of a doctor.

In fact, parents of young children—who are likely to be younger and more Internet-savvy than the general population—are more inclined to trust online reviews than the typical consumer. According to a 2010 Pew Research study, only 12 percent of consumers used online reviews, versus the more than 25 percent of parents who sought out online reviews.

According to The New York Times, however, the main problem holding back greater use of doctor reviews is a lack of credible reviewing sites. The paper identified a few physician-rating sites, such as HealthGrades or RateMDs, but noted that “listings are often sparse, with few contributors and little of substance.” This may be because people are hesitant to review doctors, or because negative reviews could attract a lawsuit.


  • Parents are relying more on online reviews of doctors than ever before.
  • More parents are likely to choose a physician based on online reviews, regardless of what friends and family say.
  • Despite the increase use in physician-rating websites, listings don’t actually hold much substance.

Last reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, PhD. Review Date: September 2020


  1. BrightLocal. Local Consumer Review Survey 2013.
  2. The New York Times. The Web Is Awash in Reviews, but Not for Doctors. Here’s Why.
  3. Pediatrics. Parental Awareness and Use of Online Physician Rating Sites.


  1. Oh, these review sites! It’s a shame they aren’t more reliable. As with hotels or restaurants, people tend to only review when the response was amazing or awful, totally skewing results.

  2. I’m not so sure I would choose a pediatrician based on his/her online reviews. It’s not like buying a new pair of shoes, you are trusting this person to take the best possible care of your child. You don’t personally know the people writing the reviews. I would rather consider recommendations from people I actually know and trust. However, I can understand how a family new to an area might see this as a good resource.


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