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What makes a ‘top doc?’

When it comes to choosing a new doctor for themselves, Americans 50 and older say they value access and convenience over the physician’s reputation, online reviews or the recommendations of others, according to a recent University of Michigan survey.

The National Poll on Healthy Aging surveyed about 2,000 older adults about the factors most important to them in doctor selection. An overwhelming majority, 93%, said it was either “important” or “very important” that the physician accepts their health insurance; 61% put travel time to the doctor’s office into one of those categories; and 55% said they similarly valued office hours and location.

About 40% of respondents said a recommendation from another physician was very important to them. Recommendations from family and friends were rated as very important by about 20% of older adults.

While the respondents to the current survey ranked online ratings and reviews ninth overall among the factors they value most, these ratings do play an important role and should receive more attention from providers, because their role is likely to grow in the future, the researchers said.

While about 20% of older adults called online ratings of doctors as very important, 43% said they had checked such reviews in the past when considering a physician for themselves. Use of physician rating sites like HealthGrades, Vitals and RateMDs was more common among women, those with higher levels of education, and those with chronic medical conditions.

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