New Reasons To ‘Like’ Online Hospital Reviews

Hospital Quality

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the technology has evolved over the past ten years, healthcare consumers have progressively sought information related to the quality and service of healthcare providers on the Internet.  Hospitals are under pressure to share more information, and there has been an increasing number of hospital ratings reports to satisfy the public’s appetite for data.

The primary players in the healthcare quality/service watchdog business have traditionally been federal and state governments (Hospital Compare, Florida Health Finder), large group healthcare purchasers (Leapfrog Group), proprietary organizations (HealthGrades), and the media (US News Best Hospitals, Thomson Reuters Top 100 Hospitals, Consumer Reports).

However, medical experts agree that none of the reports is perfect, and, in fact, are fraught with inconsistencies from one report to the next.  There is no single source that best reflects the quality of hospital care and service, and the specific quality and service metrics on these web sources and the required multi-step navigation can often present a confusing picture to the lay healthcare consumer. Social media may offer a more user-friendly and accessible alternative to the consumer.

Hospitals and health systems are increasingly embracing social media. A recent report by Kaiser Health News (KHN), which is excerpted below, suggests that Facebook and Yelp, two popular social media sites, “may do a solid job of reflecting” quality at hospitals.

The KHN article sites a study published in the February American Journal of Medical Quality, in which researchers “compared the activity on the Facebook pages of 40 hospitals in the greater New York City metropolitan region with more traditional methods of measuring hospital quality,” and found that hospitals with “lots of ‘Likes’ tended to have lower mortality rates and substantially better patient reviews.” In addition, for a study published in November 2012 in BJM Quality & Safety, the researchers compared “270 hospitals that had at least six reviews on Yelp,” with how the hospitals scored on “more traditional measurement” tools; and they found the hospitals that had the best scores on Yelp “tended to have better mortality and readmission outcomes” in the traditional scoring methods.

KAISER HEALTH NEWS–Millions of dollars and some of the best minds in health care have been devoted to measuring how good a hospital is. But two studies suggest users of two social media giants, Facebook and Yelp, may do a solid job of reflecting quality.

Two independent studies show that hospitals with positive social media reviews tended to have lower mortality rates, substantially better patient satisfaction and fewer readmissions.

The findings are particularly important as more people are turning to the Internet to evaluate health care providers. Fourteen percent of Americans went online last year to consult rankings or reviews of hospitals or medical facilities, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

In a study published last month in the American Journal of Medical Quality, researchers compared the activity on the Facebook pages of 40 hospitals in the greater New York City metropolitan region with more traditional methods of measuring hospital quality, including mortality rates and  patient experience surveys  that hospitals conduct for Medicare.

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