Yelp rates patient experience better than satisfaction surveys

The crowdsourcing site Yelp, in which customers rate the quality of restaurants, hotels and a wide range of other businesses, does a better job than the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey in rating the quality of hospital stays, according to a new study.

The study, published in the April issue of Health Affairs, found that Yelp reviews went deeper into the patient experience than the HCAHPS survey, Reviews included assessments of comfort, billing issues and hospital costs, in part because family members posted reviews along with patients. Only discharged patients are queried in the HCAHPS survey.

Family members and caregivers are "a really important population that we don't otherwise hear from," co-author Raina M. Merchant, director of the Penn Social Media and Health Innovation Lab and an assistant professor in emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told STAT. 

The researchers noted that "reviews on social media sites" such as Yelp "are organic, largely unstructured, and essentially uncurated" however, the reviews also include the aspects of care most important to patients and caregivers. They suggest that the reviews could supplement and guide reporting of hospital quality. 

Last year another study found that hospitals with lower-than-average readmission rates had higher Facebook ratings than those with higher readmission rates, FierceHealthcare reported at the time. Meanwhile, the social media site Twitter could help researchers collect data on medical errors and learn more about how patients feel about mistakes that affected them, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Researchers in the U.K. found that 23 percent of public tweets about medical errors involved medication, 23 percent involve diagnostic mistakes and surgical errors represented 14 percent of the tweets. Nine out of 10 negative tweets were posted by patients rather than family members.

More than half of the patients talking about medical errors expressed frustration, the research found.

To learn more:
- read the STAT article
- here's the study abstract