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01.11.2010 | Original Research | Ausgabe 11/2010

Journal of General Internal Medicine 11/2010

The Availability and Nature of Physician Information on the Internet

Zeitschrift:
Journal of General Internal Medicine > Ausgabe 11/2010
Autoren:
MD, MPA Arash Mostaghimi, MD Bradley H. Crotty, MD, MBA, MSc Bruce E. Landon
Wichtige Hinweise
Drs. Mostaghimi and Crotty contributed equally to this work.

Abstract

Background

Although patients are commonly using the Internet to find healthcare information, the amount of personal and professional physician information and patient-generated ratings freely accessible online is unknown.

Objective

To characterize the nature of online professional and personal information available to the average patient searching for physician information through a standardized web search.

Design, Setting, and Participants

We studied 250 randomly selected internal medicine physicians registered with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine in 2008. For each physician, standardized searches via the Google search engine were performed using a sequential search strategy. The top 20 search results were analyzed, and websites that referred to the study subject were recorded and categorized. Physician rating sites were further investigated to determine the number of patient-entered reviews.

Main Measures

Number and content of websites attributable to specific physicians.

Key Results

Websites containing personal or professional information were identified for 93.6% of physicians. Among those with any web sites identified, 92.8% had professional information and 32.4% had personal information available online. Female physicians were more likely to have professional information available on the Internet than male physicians (97.5% vs. 91.7%, p = 0.03), but had similar rates of available personal information (32.5% vs. 32.5%, p = ns). Among personal sites, the most common categories included social networking sites such as Facebook (10.8% of physicians), hobbies (10.0%), charitable or political donations (9.6%), and family information (8.8%). Physician rating sites were identified for 86.4% of providers, but only three physicians had more than five reviews on any given rating site.

Conclusions

Personal and professional physician information is widely available on the Internet, and often not under direct control of the individual physician. The availability of such information has implications for physician–patient relationships and suggests that physicians should monitor their online information.

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