By Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst

The proliferation of physician ratings sites is one aspect of the growing consumerization of healthcare in the U.S., and websites like Vitals and Healthgrades have the attention of doctors, The Wall Street Journal reports:

Many doctors remain wary of online reviews, concerned that negative comments can damage their reputation. Being a good doctor can sometimes mean giving patients hard advice. And some doctors fear comments from disgruntled patients or ex-employees could drive other patients away.

Some reviews can be pretty brutal, says Andrew Pasternak, a family physician in Reno, Nev. However, he says, part of being a physician now is having to deal with these.

Indeed, according to Manhattan Research data from 2013, more than a quarter of U.S. consumers had accessed or posted ratings or reviews of healthcare providers, hospitals or products over the previous year. Throw cost transparency tools like Castlight into the mix, and you can see consumers getting much more comfortable comparison-shopping online for healthcare products and services much as they would a pair of chinos or a new laptop. For many physicians, this probably seems like one more little ding against their professional stature and authority, but it's not all bad:

Some reviews are constructive. When a patient noted on an online site that Dr. Pasternak was spending too much time jotting notes on his tablet computer, he says he made an effort to make better eye contact and appear more attentive.

For all parties in the healthcare industry, it's a time of greater accountability to payers and, increasingly, to consumers fueled by policy and technology.

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