In trying to research doctors, Tuten and Worthington are in the minority of consumers. Most people don't do any research, suggesting that health-plan rating sites may face a difficult task getting consumers to use them. In a 2008 survey by researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change, half of the respondents said they relied on friends or relatives to choose a primary-care physician. Nearly 40% turned to a doctor or other healthcare provider. Only a little over a third used information from their health plan.
"Picking a physician is a very personal choice, and often you rely on people you know," says study lead author Tu. "It's not necessarily true that they'll trust a health plan to provide them with information about doctors."