Online consumer ratings of healthcare providers are playing an increasing role in how consumers perceive and select providers. However, since online ratings lack standardized benchmarks for assessment and because ratings are not normalized across medical specialties, it is unclear how consumers should interpret scores. In a large study of consumer ratings data, we found that overall satisfaction scores are consistently left skewed (i.e. mostly higher scores with few low scores), fall within narrow ranges, and have different distributions across specialties, which makes meaningful interpretation by healthcare consumers very difficult.


These observations have real-world implications on how scores should be interpreted:

Since scores across all specialties are drastically left-skewed, the majority of scores are high, which falsely implies that most doctors are above average. For example, a score of 3 – which would be considered average if scores were normally distributed – would be exceedingly low in terms of percentile rank.


Due to the narrow ranges of scores within professions, small differences in scores may represent large differences in percentile rank; for example, a difference of 0.5 stars among a surgical provider may indicate a quartile difference in percentile rank. 


Since there are major differences in score distributions across specialties, interpretation of scores will differ according to specialty. For example, a urologist with 4.6 stars would be at the 80th percentile among his peers, whereas a cardiothoracic surgeon with the same star rating would only be at the 50th percentile. 

To address these concerns, we created this calculator that translates online physician ratings to a specialty-specific percentile ranking. This method of interpretation accounts for all three concerns mentioned above and presents the data in a way that is more accurate and is easier to interpret than the traditional star rating.

Cedars-Sinai CORE

116 N. Robertson Blvd., Suite 800

Los Angeles, CA 90048

P: (310) 423-6784





Use the slider to select the physician's online rating, and choose his or her specialty from the dropdown menu. The results will automatically update to reflect the physician's rank within the specialty.




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