Facebook 'likes' could translate to real life likes for hospitals

If you "like" a hospital on Facebook, does that mean you're a satisfied patient? A study from the American Journal of Medical Quality set out to assess whether Facebook "likes" were associated with hospital quality and patient satisfaction.

The study--"Do Patients 'Like' Good Care?"--was an exploratory quantitative analysis of hospitals' Facebook pages near New York City. It determined that "likes" have a negative association with 30-day mortality rates, and are positively associated with patient recommendation. Healthcare Innovation Technology's HIT Lab Blog reports that, based on the dataset, for every 93 additional Facebook "likes" there is a corresponding 1 percentage point decrease in 30-day mortality.

The findings, according to the study's authors, suggest that the number of Facebook "likes" for a hospital could serve as an indicator of hospital quality and satisfaction.

"We're encouraged that the correlations support the idea that free, widely accessible data made available via social media will continue to find a place in academic assessment of hospital quality," Alex Timian, lead author of the study, said, according to the blog post. "Our hope is that this exploratory work will serve as a stepping stone for other public health and ICT researchers to build on by analyzing data from Facebook and other social media tools against various traditional measures."

Social media is part of a shift in focus by healthcare organizations in their care delivery, with Facebook and Twitter serving as significant sources of specific and individual healthcare information, according to an editorial published earlier this month in BMJ Quality & Safety.

"Already, social networking has proved to be a major benefit for patients, especially those with rare conditions, to share information among themselves," the authors of the editorial said. "However, just as today it is possible to select restaurants more effectively with Yelp, it is likely that patients will be making decisions about where to get their healthcare through such approaches--though the stakes are considerably higher in healthcare choices."

To learn more:
- see the study abstract
- read the HIT Lab Blog post

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