To be sure, health care consumers aren’t pursuing medical treatments solely based on semi-anonymous comments they read on the Internet. Compared with online rating and recommendation venues for other products and services, patients have yet to embrace content found on review sites as a primary data source for choosing a provider or medical practice, says the Pew Research Center. But they are using them along with a mix of traditional resources.

In its January 2013 report, “Peer-to-Peer Health Care,” which surveyed about 3,000 adults, Pew found Internet users aged 30 to 64 more likely to say they have consulted online reviews and rankings of health treatments and services. But with only one out of five of them using reviews for research, Pew concluded that using health care experiences posted online for decision making hasn’t caught on among general consumers.

One reason could be that, compared with other types of reviews, there aren’t enough of them. “People are much less likely to post a review of a treatment, hospital, or clinician—between 3 to 4 percent of Internet users have done so,” Pew wrote.

The PwC Health Research Institute drew a similar conclusion. “Third-party physician review sites often do not have many ‘validated’ reviews from real patients. And although some insurers have begun to offer reviews of individual doctors, participation is lackluster,” PwC wrote in its April 2013 report, “Scoring Health Care: Navigating Customer Experience Ratings.”

A little fewer than half of the participants in its consumer survey of 1,000 adults said they have read health care reviews online, and a quarter said they have written health care reviews, leaving PwC to conclude that word of mouth still trumps ratings and reviews in health care decisions.

Nonetheless, says PwC, as consumers spend more on health and wellness, they are beginning to search for rating systems to guide their decision making. “Once consumers read reviews, however, 68 percent said they used the reviews to choose where to get their health care. This could be an indicator that better awareness and understanding of reviews could affect the future success” of health care venues.