Whether by Snail Mail or E-Mail, Doctors Rate the Same

Examining the validity and usefulness of the Internet as a tool for collecting and providing health information

During 2000 and 2001, researchers at the Foundation for Accountability (FACCT, no longer in existence) conducted a series of surveys to evaluate the feasibility of using Internet-based surveys of consumers to develop quality ratings of physicians, hospitals, health plans and other health care providers.

The surveys:

  • Compared responses from consumers who rated individual physicians and practices in a mailed survey with responses from those who rated the same physicians and practices via the Internet.
  • Assessed various methods of recruiting consumers to participate in such surveys.
  • Measured the level of satisfaction among users of FACCT's Compare Your Care Internet survey tool.
  • Probed nonusers about their lack of participation.

Key Findings

In a report to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), FACCT's findings included:

  • There was little difference in the average ratings of individual physicians or practices provided by consumers who responded by mail and those who responded via the Internet.
  • Response rates varied widely but were highest among potential respondents recruited through so-called trusted sources, such as physicians and consumer groups.
  • Most respondents said they would use comparative ratings and comments from other patients to choose a doctor.
  • Nonusers cited lack of Internet access or time as their primary reason for not using the tool.

Funding

RWJF supported this project through a grant of $394,584.