The development of online doctor reviews in China: an analysis of the largest online doctor review website in China.J Med Internet Res 2015; 17(6):e134JM
Since the time of Web 2.0, more and more consumers have used online doctor reviews to rate their doctors or to look for a doctor. This phenomenon has received health care researchers' attention worldwide, and many studies have been conducted on online doctor reviews in the United States and Europe. But no study has yet been done in China. Also, in China, without a mature primary care physician recommendation system, more and more Chinese consumers seek online doctor reviews to look for a good doctor for their health care concerns.
This study sought to examine the online doctor review practice in China, including addressing the following questions: (1) How many doctors and specialty areas are available for online review? (2) How many online reviews are there on those doctors? (3) What specialty area doctors are more likely to be reviewed or receive more reviews? (4) Are those reviews positive or negative?
This study explores an empirical dataset from Good Doctor website, haodf.com—the earliest and largest online doctor review and online health care community website in China—from 2006 to 2014, to examine the stated research questions by using descriptive statistics, binary logistic regression, and multivariate linear regression.
The dataset from the Good Doctor website contained 314,624 doctors across China and among them, 112,873 doctors received 731,543 quantitative reviews and 772,979 qualitative reviews as of April 11, 2014. On average, 37% of the doctors had been reviewed on the Good Doctor website. Gynecology-obstetrics-pediatrics doctors were most likely to be reviewed, with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.497 (95% CI 1.461-1.535), and internal medicine doctors were less likely to be reviewed, with an OR of 0.94 (95% CI 0.921-0.960), relative to the combined small specialty areas. Both traditional Chinese medicine doctors and surgeons were more likely to be reviewed than the combined small specialty areas, with an OR of 1.483 (95% CI 1.442-1.525) and an OR of 1.366 (95% CI 1.337-1.395), respectively. Quantitatively, traditional Chinese medicine doctors (P<.001) and gynecology-obstetrics-pediatrics doctors (P<.001) received more reviews than the combined small specialty areas. But internal medicine doctors received fewer reviews than the combined small specialty areas (P<.001). Also, the majority of quantitative reviews were positive-about 88% were positive for the doctors' treatment effect measure and 91% were positive for the bedside manner measure. This was the case for the four major specialty areas, which had the most number of doctors—internal medicine, gynecology-obstetrics-pediatrics, surgery, and traditional Chinese medicine.
Like consumers in the United States and Europe, Chinese consumers have started to use online doctor reviews. Similar to previous research on other countries' online doctor reviews, the online reviews in China covered almost every medical specialty, and most of the reviews were positive even though all of the reviewing procedures and the final available information were anonymous. The average number of reviews per rated doctor received in this dataset was 6, which was higher than that for doctors in the United States or Germany, probably because this dataset covered a longer time period than did the US or German dataset. But this number is still very small compared to any doctor's real patient population, and it cannot represent the reality of that population. Also, since all the data used for analysis were from one single website, the data might be biased and might not be a representative national sample of China.