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Hospital systems look to Yelp in collecting patient data, feedback, says Health Affairs

Yelp ratings were found to have a positive correlation with hospitals with lower 30-day readmission rates, building on prior evidence.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

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.

[Also: Yelp reviews prove a reliable tool for determining hospital quality, New York State Health Foundation study says]

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.

Twitter: @JELagasse

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