Doctors in leadership positions appear to be suffering from ‘severe ostrich syndrome’

A recent survey published by the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) suggests that doctors in leadership or executive positions may be suffering from a condition which known as “severe ostrich syndrome” (SOS).


ACPE surveyed 5600 members and received 730 responses. According to the results, a majority of physicians in leadership positions believe that most patients do not look online for ratings.

Ratings and reviews are now an established part of the product evaluation process for everything from books to shoes to electronics. Increasingly, consumers seek out ratings and reviews to evaluate physicians.

  • 32% of consumers would never choose a healthcare provider without reading at least one piece of user-generated content. (Kelton Research/Bazaarvoice, September 2011)
  • 96% of aesthetic consumers say reviews are either “important” or “very important” in choosing a cosmetic doctor. (

Although plastic surgeons are recovering from “SOS” faster than their colleagues in other specialties, all physicians share a common problem with traditional rating and review sites: the information available to consumers does not reflect the actual quality of their practices. (Doctors, if you’ve ever looked at your own online reputation, you are likely nodding your head in agreement.)

The ACPE survey reached the same conclusion. Dr. Peter Angood, CEO of the ACPE, says “This important new survey illustrates the strong concern among physician leaders about the quality and integrity of current reporting strategies and the data they are based upon.”

Why are existing patient rating systems so inadequate?

  1. Review sites rarely verify that the reviewer is a real patient of the doctor
  2. They do not prevent reviews by non-patients, most commonly by competitors or angry former staff
  3. The review sites do not consistently generate enough ratings to provide an accurate picture of practice quality
  4. Low numbers of reviews affect validity of conclusions

Because physicians are trained in statistics, they are naturally skeptical of data that isn’t statistically valid. But the general public does not approach ratings and reviews this way, which is why even one negative review can cause serious damage.

happy_ostrichAvoiding SOS “severe ostrich syndrome” (SOS).

Ratings and reviews are part of a new consumer reality. The reviews both validate quality and expose service and care weaknesses. They represent a social media trend that is growing exponentially across both product and service markets.

  1. Seek help from your patients to post reviews on your behalf, but also understand the difficulty, particularly for cosmetic patients, of going public on sites that require them to identify themselves.
  2. Make sure your own site has review content and try to find the issues within your practice that prompt negative postings and fix those proactively.

Additional reading on this subject:

Survey Finds Physicians Very Wary of Doctor Ratings
Physician Executive Journal, Jan/Feb 2013

Publicly Reported Physician Ratings: Here to Stay But Not Yet Ready for Prime Time
Physician Executive Journal, Jan/Feb 2013

By 2014, 15% of reviews will be fake
American Medical News

RPR’s best-in-class patient satisfaction surveys help plastic surgeons take better care of their patients and our highly accurate method of generating online ratings and reviews helps consumers find truly good doctors.