Docs, hospitals should embrace Yelp reviews

Online review tools like Yelp may not offer a structured look into what patients experience, providers should pay attention to the window it does open into their satisfaction and individual care experiences.

Providers fear putting too much stock into public rating sites, according to a Viewpoint article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, because the responses may not offer a balance of patient experiences, but research suggests that sites like Yelp may rate the patient experience better than common professional surveys like the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS).

For example, HCAHPS give insight to the number of patients who feel disrespected by providers, according to the article, but it does not provide a specific instance that led them to feel this way. A website like Yelp, though, often offers a more specific look at why patients may have had a very positive or very negative care experience.

“In supporting the sharing of observations and testimonials, online review platforms create new opportunities to listen to patients, not so much to make them better but to potentially help medical professionals make the experience of healthcare better,” the authors write.

Providers also need to pay attention to posts on Yelp because such sites are taking the place of word-of-mouth marketing between patients, according to the article. Each post also creates a public record of an individual’s experience, which it would not be in a provider’s interest to dismiss outright.

Yelp also expanded its reviews for hospitals in August 2015, adding data on emergency department wait times, doctors’ communications skills and noise level in patient rooms as part of a partnership with ProPublica.

The article notes that HCAHPS and other patient experience surveys may have limited response rates, too, which can call their data into question. Plus, they’re often done on paper—a far more costly alternative than digital options, another potential strike on their efficacy.