A problem with online reviews
by jerry on June 06, 2021
The Washington Post published an article that is critical of online reviews, starting with an account of one couple's reliance on online reviews in selecting an addiction treatment facility which proved ineffective in stopping a drinking addiction. The article outlines some strategies that technology firms might employ to try to detect fraudulent reviews. The article also discusses one woman's journey into combating fake reviews and discovering dozens of Facebook groups where businesses trade reviews. Notably, fake reviews are not specific to the medical field; it is a problem that can plague items such as books and household goods, and even the concept of verified reviews can be gamed.
The article does highlight what might be the root of the problem: "And in the absence of reliable and easily accessible information about doctor performance, most patients are going to continue to resort to online reviews, Yaraghi, the Miami professor, said." The medical community has seen many internal disagreements about how to measure quality, but also seems to be reluctant resolve those disagreements. In the absence of benchmarks from the industry, the question is whether these online reviews are -- on average -- helpful or not. My feeling is that online reviews (not just for doctors) are generally helpful, but they should only be considered as one component of a person's decision process.
One commenter on the article noted: "Part of the problem is that there is virtually no information about doctors out there other than their speciality [sic] and where they got their degree. Occasionally you can get where they did their residency and internship. ... So, where do you turn? Reviews posted on the internet are about the only thing out there." One commentator's solution? "Doctors should really start soliciting reviews from every single patient they treat. Yes a small minority might post negative reviews, but the vast majority will post positive ones that will outweigh the negative ones."