When it comes to collecting data from patients -- and giving patients an extra tool with which to gauge hospital quality -- hospitals and health systems may do well to consider online, patient-generated reviews in the vein of Yelp, say the authors of a new Health Affairs blog post.
It's still unclear at this point whether sites like Yelp will point patients in the right direction, toward high-quality providers, the authors said. But early studies have been promising. In April, a study conducted by the Manhattan Institute and funded by the New York State Health Foundation found Yelp ratings correlated with better-quality hospitals.
What's more, it can provide consumers with a clear and reliable tool. Yelp ratings were found to have a positive correlation with hospitals with lower 30-day readmission rates, building on prior evidence showing a link between Yelp scores and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems patient experience measures.
There are still questions around the efficacy of the existing ratings systems, such as whether contradictory scores -- a high HCAHPS score versus a low Leapfrog grade, for example -- serve to confound consumers. Clear data on whether that's the case doesn't yet exist.
Still, the authors contend that implementing a Yelp-style user-review framework can help providers and insurers glean information about their patients, such as what they value and what their concerns are. Such approaches have the built-in advantage of being relatively cost-free, in addition to being almost universally accessible.
Some systems are already experimenting with this approach. New York-based Northwell Health, for example, is currently posting both negative and positive patient reviews of doctors in the system, as well as Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores.
A study by Public Agenda released in April found that consumers' most common sources of information were friends, relatives and colleagues, indicating that people generally trust sources without a financial stake. Patient-generated review sites play neatly into that phenomenon, the authors said.