Social media hospital ratings don't reliably predict clinical care quality, study finds

Although patients can visit various social media sites for crowdsourced insight on other patients' hospital experience, they shouldn't expect reliable guidance on the care quality they will receive, according to research from Bloomington-based Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The researchers compared social media ratings posted by patients with the data available through CMS' Hospital Compare website.

Here are four insights from the research, published in Health Services Research:

1. For patient experience, such as food, friendliness and amenities, Google, Yelp and Facebook ratings most often aligned with hospitals with high Hospital Compare ratings.

2. The social media ratings were not as accurate for care quality and safety as measured on Hospital Compare. Twenty percent of the hospitals rated "best" within a local market on social media were rated "worst" in that market by Hospital Compare on patient outcomes.

3. "Our results indicate that crowdsourced ratings reflect measures of quality most easily observed, which is not all that matters in healthcare," said researcher Victoria Perez, PhD. "While crowdsourced sites may provide similar information to the government's patient experience surveys, they are not a substitute for measures of clinical quality or patient safety."

4. The research also discusses shortcomings with the Hospital Compare scores and a need for giving patients clearer explanations of clinical quality. Of the 57 Hospital Compare metrics, patients must look through 46 to find clinical quality and safety, and many of these measure might not apply to their specific condition.

"For patients broadly interested in the dimensions of clinical quality and safety, our research shows the need for better tools to help patients search for hospitals that meet their clinical needs," said researcher Seth Freedman, PhD.

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