Study suggests Yelp can supplement the federal government's survey of patients' hospital experiences

Yelp reviews of hospitals cover topics not found in more traditional patient experience surveys, according to the results of a new study published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania compared 16,862 Yelp reviews of 1,352 hospitals to HCAHPS reviews of the same institutions.

The authors found the domains included in Yelp reviews covered the majority of HCAHPS domains. However, Yelp reviews covered an additional 12 domains not found in HCAHPS: cost of hospital visit, insurance and billing, ancillary testing, facilities, amenities, scheduling, compassion of staff, family member care, quality of nursing, quality of staff, quality of technical aspects of care and specific type of medical care.

Furthermore, the study found the majority of Yelp topics that most strongly correlate with positive reviews are not measured or reported by HCAHPS. These included: caring doctors, nurses, and staff; comforting; surgery/procedure and peri-op; and labor and delivery.

"These topics that are covered within the Yelp reviews are important because they relate to the interpersonal relationships of patients with physicians, nurses, and staff," the study's lead author Benjamin L. Ranard, a junior fellow at the Penn Social Media and Health Innovation Lab, and a combined MD/MS in Health Policy Research student at the Perelman School of Medicine, said, according to a news release. "Prospective patients are likely to want to know how caring and comforting caregivers are in various departments of a hospital."

The study found two of the top five Yelp categories most strongly associated with negative Yelp review ratings — cost of hospital visit and insurance and billing — are also not covered by HCAHPS domains.

Overall, the authors concluded online consumer review platforms such as Yelp can supplement information provided by more traditional patient-experience surveys and help patients, providers and policymakers understand and assess hospital quality.


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