Healthcare News & Insights

Why hospitals should pay attention to Yelp reviews

Hospital executives may not want to pay attention to critical reviews of their facilities online. But it looks like it’s time to give patient reviews more weight. A new analysis shows that online patient reviews paint just as accurate a picture of a facility’s quality of care as do federal surveys used to measure patient satisfaction. 

188036858Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania analyzed the contents of 17,000 Yelp reviews of over 1,350 hospitals to see how patients rated the facilities online.

According to an article in the Washington Post, they used natural language processing techniques to break the reviews down so they could be compared to elements of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey used to measure patient satisfaction.

The results of the analysis were published in Health Affairs. Overall, the Yelp reviews only covered about seven out of the 11 key areas discussed in the HCAPHS survey. But they ended up giving insight about additional factors that are important to patients during their stay, including:

  • insurance
  • billing
  • the visit’s cost
  • hospital amenities
  • family member care
  • specific types of medical care
  • ancillary testing
  • scheduling
  • quality of nursing
  • compassion of staff
  • quality of staff, and
  • quality of technical aspects of care.

Comparing data

Per the analysis, when patients said positive things, they tended to be about caring doctors, nurses and staff. Many satisfied patients mentioned the good experiences they had with surgeries and procedures, or during labor and delivery. Negative reviews mostly discussed the financial parts of their stays – particularly insurance and billing, and the cost of the visit.

In addition, when comparing those hospitals with both Yelp reviews and HCAHPS data, researchers found, for hospitals with at least three Yelp reviews, the Yelp rating closely matched the rating they received from the patient surveys, according to an article from Stat News.

This gives the data more weight. Reviews aren’t just posted by disgruntled patients with an agenda, or those with unusually great experiences. Just like federal surveys, the feedback runs the gamut. That means facilities would be wise to know how patients are rating them online. The information could be used to improve official patient satisfaction scores and provide better services.

Information drives decisions

Sites like Yelp influence consumers’ choices in all types of areas – and people are becoming more likely to research a hospital online before receiving care. The Health Affairs analysis notes that almost three-quarters of Americans used the Internet to look up health-related information, and 42% looked at health-related reviews by consumers.

The availability of this data makes it easier for future patients to use it to form their own opinions about a facility before they even receive treatment. So you may have to address any negative perceptions reviews could be giving about your hospital’s quality of care.

Yelp reviews can also give hospitals insight into what patients’ value most in hospital staff: having caring and compassionate attitudes toward patients. While a warm and caring bedside manner can’t always be taught, hospitals can work to promote a culture where these traits are valued in their facilities.

And since many patients report negative feelings toward the billing process, it could be helpful to inject a little compassion into this area as well. For example, for patients who have concerns about their ability to pay for care, let them know about any charity care options that are available – or being willing to set patients up on financial payment plans.

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