The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of certain demographics, social media usage, and physician review website variables for spine surgeons across Healthgrades.com (Healthgrades), Vitals.com (Vitals), and Google.com (Google).
Through a directory of registered North American Spine Society (NASS) physicians, we identified spine surgeons practicing in Texas (107 neurosurgery trained, 192 orthopedic trained). Three physician rating websites (Healthgrades, Vitals, Google) were accessed to obtain surgeon demographics, training history, practice setting, number of ratings/reviews, and overall score (January 2, 2018–January 16, 2018). Using only the first 10 search results from Google.com, we then identified whether the surgeon had a website presence or an accessible social media account on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.
Physicians with either a personal or institutional website had a higher overall rating on Healthgrades compared to those who did not have a website (p < 0.01). Nearly all spine surgeons had a personal or institutional website (90.3%), and at least 1 accessible social media account was recorded for 43.5% of the spine surgeons in our study cohort (39.5% Facebook, 10.4% Twitter, 2.7% Instagram). Social media presence was not significantly associated with overall ratings across all 3 sites, but it did significantly correlate with more comments on Healthgrades. In multivariable analysis, increasing surgeon age was significantly associated with a lower overall rating across all 3 review sites (p < 0.05). Neurosurgeons had higher overall ratings on Vitals (p = 0.04). Longer wait times were significantly associated with a lower overall rating on Healthgrades (p < 0.0001). Overall ratings from all 3 websites correlated significantly with each other, indicating agreement between physician ratings across different platforms.
Longer wait times, increasing physician age, and the absence of a website are indicative of lower online review scores for spine surgeons. Neurosurgery training correlated with a higher overall review score on Vitals. Having an accessible social media account does not appear to influence scores, but it is correlated with increased patient feedback on Healthgrades. Identification of ways to optimize patients’ perception of care are important in the future of performance-based medicine.