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Open Access Publications from the University of California

What patients see online: assessing the online identities of Pennsylvania dermatologists

  • Author(s): Karanfilian, Katrice M
  • De Guzman, Eison
  • Kim, Christopher
  • Madill, Evan
  • Ayyaswami, Varun
  • Kamath, Preetha
  • Agarwal, Nitin
  • Koch, Ellen
  • Prabhu, Arpan V
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Introduction: Patients use the internet to search for health-related information. We sought to characterize the information that patients find when searching for dermatologists on Google. Methods: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Physician Comparable Downloadable File was utilized to identify all Medicare-participating dermatologists practicing in Pennsylvania (PA). A custom Google-based search engine was used to search each dermatologist. Up to the top 10 results for each physician were then sorted into: (1) physician, hospital, or healthcare system, (2) third-party, (3) social media, (4) academic journal articles, or (5) other. Results: Within the CMS, 519 health care providers (53.9% male, 46.1% female) self-identified as dermatologists practicing in PA. At least one search result was obtained for each physician (4,963 total search results). About 30.6% (1,519) search results were hospital, health system, or physician-controlled websites, and 26.6% (1,318) were third-party websites (1,318; 26.6%). Social media websites accounted for 601 (12.1%) hits whereas peer-reviewed academic journal websites generated 135 (2.7%) results. One-way chi-square analysis showed domains were not randomly distributed across the five categories (P<0.0001). Conclusion: Dermatologists should be better aware of their digital presence and the strategies to better control their online identity.

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