October 1, 2018

Why crowdsourced hospital reviews often don't reflect actual quality—and how hospitals should respond

Daily Briefing

    A study published in the Health Services Research journal found that crowdsourced ratings websites—such as Yelp, Google Reviews, and Facebook—are good indicators of individual patient experience, but they don't reliably reflect patient quality and patient safety, Christopher Cheney reports for HealthLeaders Media.

    Cheat sheet: Your guide to responding to online reviews

    The problem with crowdsourced reviews

    For the study, researchers compared ratings from nearly 3,000 acute care hospitals posted on Yelp, Google Reviews, and Facebook to scores from Hospital Compare—a CMS website that uses Medicare claims data and 57 metrics to rate hospitals on patient experience, patient safety, and clinical quality.

    The researchers found about half of the top-rated hospitals on social media sites were also among the best-rated by Hospital Compare's overall rating. On the other hand, about 20% of the top-rated hospitals on social media were among the worst-rated by Hospital Compare's overall rating.

    Victoria Perez, a co-author of the study and assistant professor at Indiana University, said, "For the most part, what we found is that the social media scores tell us about patient experience, but they don't tell us about the best and worst hospitals on the basis of clinical quality or patient safety."

    How hospitals can use the study's findings

    While research suggests that crowdsourced ratings don't always accurately represent a hospital's clinical quality, Cheney writes that reviews in venues such as Yelp are very accessible for patients, which means they often can color patients' views of a hospital's quality of care.

    Perez said, "We wish that people would understand that even if hospitals are not scoring well on Facebook in user reviews, they could have excellent clinical scores."

    According to Perez, hospitals can neutralize the negative crowdsource ratings by refocusing patients' attention to measures of clinical quality and patient safety. "Hospitals can advertise that they score well on Hospital Compare and establish marketing strategies to respond to social media scores," Perez explained.

    She recommended hospitals post their Hospital Compare clinical quality and patient safety scores on their websites and social media pages (Cheney, Health Leaders Media, 9/10).

    Your guide to responding to online reviews

    Responding to online reviews can be tricky—use this cheat sheet to learn best practices for strategically responding in a HIPAA-compliant, patient-friendly manner.

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