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Physician Review Websites: Effects of the Proportion and Position of Negative Reviews on Readers’ Willingness to Choose the Doctor


Health consumers are increasingly turning to physician review websites to research potential health care providers. This experiment examined how the proportion and position of negative reviews on such websites influence readers' willingness to choose the reviewed physician. A 5 × 2 (Proportion of Negative Reviews × Position of Negative Reviews) factorial design was implemented, augmented with two standalone comparison groups. Five hundred participants were recruited through a crowdsource website and were randomly assigned to read a webpage screenshot corresponding to 1 of 12 experimental conditions. The participants then completed a questionnaire that assessed evaluations of and cognitive elaborations (thoughts) about the physician. The authors hypothesized that readers would be less willing to use a physician's services when reviews were predominantly negative and negative comments were positioned before positive comments. As hypothesized, an increase in the proportion of negative reviews led to a reduced willingness to use the physician's services. However, this effect was not moderated by the level of cognitive elaboration. A primacy effect was found for negative reviews such that readers were less willing to use the physician's services when negative reviews were presented before positive reviews, rather than after. Implications for future research are discussed.

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