Exploring the impact of linguistic signals transmission on patients’ health consultation choice: web mining of online reviews

Adnan Muhammad Shah, Mudassar Ali, Abdul Qayyum, Abida Begum, Heesup Han, Antonio Ariza-Montes, Luis Araya-Castillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Patients face difficulties identifying appropriate physicians owing to the sizeable quantity and uneven quality of information in physician rating websites. Therefore, an increasing dependence of consumers on online platforms as a source of information for decision-making has given rise to the need for further research into the quality of information in the form of online physician reviews (OPRs). Methods: Drawing on the signaling theory, this study develops a theoretical model to examine how linguistic signals (affective signals and informative signals) in physician rating websites affect consumers’ decision making. The hypotheses are tested using 5521 physicians’ six-month data drawn from two leading health rating platforms in the U.S (i.e., Healthgrades.com and Vitals.com) during the COVID-19 pandemic. A sentic computing-based sentiment analysis framework is used to implicitly analyze patients’ opinions regarding their treatment choice. Results: The results indicate that negative sentiment, review readability, review depth, review spelling, and information helpfulness play a significant role in inducing patients’ decision-making. The influence of negative sentiment, review depth on patients’ treatment choice was indirectly medi-ated by information helpfulness. Conclusions: This paper is a first step toward the understanding of the linguistic characteristics of information relating to the patient experience, particularly the emerg-ing field of online health behavior and signaling theory. It is also the first effort to our knowledge that employs sentic computing-based sentiment analysis in this context and provides implications for practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9969
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Consumer decision-making
  • COVID-19
  • Online review helpfulness
  • Physician rating websites
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Signaling theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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