Healthcare News & Insights

Report: High-quality hospitals get better reviews on Yelp

More patients are starting to choose their hospitals based on feedback from other patients, independent research and reviews. Yelp’s become a popular forum to review and rate hospitals, and there’s evidence it may be beneficial with helping patients choose a high-quality hospital. 

A new report from the New York State Health Foundation’s Manhattan Institute looks at the impact Yelp’s had on highlighting top-quality hospitals throughout the state.

How reviews relate to quality

Back in 2015, Yelp began to recognize the role it started to play in helping patients rate their experience at hospitals. The site partnered with journalism outlet ProPublica to add additional information on readmission rates, communication scores and average wait times at thousands of hospitals, dialysis clinics and nursing homes.

Researchers from the Manhattan Institute wanted to see if the reviews of patients were in alignment with more objective quality indicators from New York hospitals, including readmission and mortality rates for various procedures and illnesses.

Past research has shown that positive Yelp ratings are related to higher scores on Medicare’s patient satisfaction surveys, but comparisons of Yelp reviews with objective data have been limited.

After looking at factual quality information from a state hospital database over a five-year period, along with general characteristics of each facility taken from an American Hospital Association survey, researchers found that, in many cases, higher quality hospitals received better ratings on Yelp. This was especially true for facilities with lower readmission rates.

Impact on hospitals, health care

Because Yelp rankings are simple and easy for consumers to understand, researchers from the Manhattan Institute said they may be useful tools in helping patients decide where to have elective surgeries, even more than traditional referrals. Yelp reviews may even influence the types of insurance coverage people purchase.

In fact, researchers called on Yelp to make further enhancements to the reviews on its site to benefit patients, including links to information about quality metrics on hospital pages and a more visible, prominent score. They also suggested making these reviews easily accessible to vulnerable populations so they can be more informed about their health care.

While this can be beneficial to more high-quality hospitals, leading to increased business and revenue, others that don’t fare as well in their Yelp ratings may struggle. Yelp uses an algorithm to ensure all reviews are legitimate, but that may not stop false or negative reviews from influencing how your hospital ranks.

Hospitals need to be aware that many patients will be making decisions – and asking questions – based on Yelp reviews. Not only is it important to know where your facility stands, it’s also key to make sure you’re able to openly discuss these reviews with patients, including any factors that may unfairly influence them (e.g., caring for a patient mix that doesn’t typically use social media).

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