DENVER, April 22, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A study of more than 28,000 online reviews of doctors suggests that American healthcare consumers are fondest of naturopaths, audiologists, oncologists and osteopathic physicians among healthcare specialists, and are least satisfied with care given by psychiatrists, dermatologists, orthopedists and family-medicine doctors.
Ironically, the analysis indicates that generally as a doctor's level of education and training increases, patient satisfaction actually decreases.
Doctors holding the M.D. title have an average online rating of 3.80 out of a possible 5 stars. In contrast, non-M.D. healthcare providers – naturopaths, audiologists and podiatrists, for example – have an average online rating of 4.29 stars.
Notwithstanding the rating differences among specialties, patients' complaints overall seem to be more of an indicator of quality of customer service than an individual doctor's education, training and clinical skills, said Ron Harman King, CEO of Vanguard Communications, which conducted the study.
"Our research to date shows that patients complain online four times as often about a medical practice's customer service – such as receptionists' cordiality and doctors' bedside manners – than about a doctor's ability to heal," King said.
"Does that mean more highly trained specialists deliver poorer customer service? We can't say with any certainty, although we found a correlation."
Five of the top-rated specialties with the highest reviews do not require M.D. degrees, suggesting that graduation from a traditional medical school does not necessarily equate to more satisfied patients. Evaluators also looked for correlations between reviews and average salary for each specialty but found no such association.
The nationwide study sought to compare patient satisfaction scores among 23 healthcare specialties in the nation's 100 largest cities on the website Yelp.com, which claims 135 million monthly users and a nationwide list of approximately 86,000 businesses.
Using specialized software to compare reviews of all listings under "doctor" and "physician" categories as defined by Yelp and its users, Vanguard – a marketing and public relations firm for specialty medical practices throughout North America – found that healthcare providers with a star rating below 3.5 are in the bottom third. Doctors with a star rating below 3.0 are in the bottom quartile.
One hypothesis for the disparity between highly specialized M.D.s and other providers, King said, is that specialists often practice in larger groups, where perhaps patients feel they're treated more like a number than individuals. Additionally, highly trained physicians frequently take on more difficult cases.
The rankings for all 23 specialties are available at www.VanguardCommunications.net/most-popular-specialists.
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