Yelp and patient experience — the value of unstructured reviews

There are roughly 42,000 reviews on Yelp about patients' experiences in hospitals, according to an article published in JAMA, and provider organizations can garner a fresh perspective on patient experience from such online reviews.

"A record like Yelp provides insight into the patient experience that is not prestructured by the biases of questionnaires and surveys," wrote Raina Merchant, MD, Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, and David Asch, MD.

HCAHPS and other surveys are limited because they ask a rigid set of questions and often do not allow patients to expand on their answers. Online, they can mention any aspect of the visit they see fit.

According to the piece in JAMA, a study of Yelp posts about hospitals revealed Yelp reviews covered 12 domains not covered explicitly in HCAHPS surveys:

  • 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
  • Specific types of medical care

Therefore, reviews on Yelp and other websites can offer a peek at the patient experience through a different lens and allow for a better overall experience for patients.

"[H]ealth professionals…should realize how useful the patients' messages are for them to receive," the authors wrote. "Neglect the voice of patients, and savvy consumers will go elsewhere — and post about it online."

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