Could Twitter be a useful alternative to HCAHPS?

What if the same data and feedback the healthcare industry receives from patient satisfaction surveys could be more robust, received faster and given by larger numbers of people? A new study looked at using Twitter to make that a reality.

Researchers from Boston Children's Hospital collected more than 400,000 public tweets directed to the Twitter accounts of nearly 2,400 U.S. hospitals between 2012 and 2013. They then tagged 34,735 tweets about patient experience directed to hospitals and determined whether they were positive, negative or neutral and grouped them by topics, such as pain, communication or time.

"We were able to capture what people were happy or mad about, in an unsolicited way," Jared Hawkins, PhD, of Boston Children's Hospital's Computational Health Informatics Program, said in a statement. "No one else is looking at patient experience this way because surveys ask very targeted questions. Unsurprisingly, you get back very targeted, narrow answers."

Ideally, the researchers say, they would be able to correlate tweets and the sentiments they express to outcomes related to care quality. Mining tweets for this information is preferable to patient experience surveys because it could cut down on lag time and be applied to much larger groups of people. However, the authors did note a relationship between the sentiments expressed in tweets and those from HCAHPS experience data.

"This is a brand new way of using Twitter data," Dr. Hawkins said. "It may be that we have to be cautious about using tweet sentiment to understand quality."

Another drawback is there is not an enormous volume of tweets relating to patient satisfaction to pull from at the moment; however, the authors note in the years since 2012, the number of tweets has increased. They are also investigating the possibility of integrating data from other sites, such as Yelp and Reddit.

More articles on health patient satisfaction:

Number of 5-star hospitals decreases dramatically in CMS Hospital Compare update
Magnet-designated hospitals report significantly better reimbursements, study finds
49 hospitals with the best staff-to-patient medicine explanation practices 

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