Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 36 Number 4 2019 pp. 1071-1104

Adherence to Clinical Guidelines, Electronic Health Record Use, and Online Reviews

Saifee, Danish H, Bardhan, Indranil R, Lahiri, Atanu, and Zheng, Zhiqiang (Eric)


To increase transparency of healthcare quality, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiated the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS). However, the impact of PQRS on physicians is unclear, particularly as related to their online reputation. Is there an association between a physician’s online reputation and her adherence to clinical guidelines stipulated in the PQRS? Is online reputation associated with use of electronic health records (EHR)? To investigate these questions, we combine data on online physician reviews with the PQRS data on clinical guideline adherence and EHR use. Unlike prior research, which primarily uses clinical outcomes as proxies for care quality, our study uses adherence to clinical guidelines, a process measure that reflects physician conformance with evidence-based clinical practices. In addition, we focus on EHR use at the physician level, in contrast to the usual approach of examining it at the aggregate institutional level. Consistent with the economic theory of credence goods, we observe no significant relationship between physicians’ adherence to clinical guidelines and their online reviews. Although there is some evidence of association between EHR use and their overall rating, similar relationships are not consistently observed for individual dimensional ratings. Overall, the online reputation of a physician exhibits minimal association with her actual clinical activities — and is mostly driven by latent topics in the textual reviews — implying that the ability of online reviews to inform prospective patients of care quality might be quite limited. Therefore, patients should be cautious when using online physician reviews, and policymakers should increase the accessibility of PQRS and other similar data to help patients make informed physician choices.

Key words and phrases: clinical guidelines, physician quality reporting, online physician reviews, electronic health record, credence goods, online eWoM