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Top 20 hospitals get poor marks on Yelp

In an industry increasingly beholden to consumerism, Yelp ratings matter, as hospitals seek to retain their respective market shares.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Credit: YelpCredit: Yelp

Of nearly 2,700 online reviews of the nation's top 20 hospitals as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, almost two out of three reviewers gave the facilities a mediocre to poor rating on the social media website Yelp.com, according to an analysis by Vanguard Communications and Healthcare Process Improvement.

Hospital executives wondering how to approach online reputation management should consider these findings when crafting that strategy or advising staffers who do so.

[Also: In the age of consumerism, hospital ratings can make or break revenue]

Each year U.S. News and World Report names 20 hospitals for outstanding clinical outcomes in 16 areas of complex specialty care. Meanwhile, from another perspective, the analysis found that 62.7 percent of Yelp reviewers rate the latest ranked top institutions at only one to three stars out of a possible five.

The 20 hospitals combined earned an average rating of 3.2 out of 5 stars. In an industry increasingly beholden to consumerism, Yelp ratings matternas hospitals seek to retain their respective market shares. So this type of rating is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

[Also: Hospital systems look to Yelp in collecting patient data, feedback, says Health Affairs]

U.S. News published its latest rankings in August based on the best clinical performances of hospitals nationwide. But on social media, patients tend to discuss customer service far more often. According to the evaluation of 2,679 reviews of the top 20, 84 percent of complaints cited non-clinical service issues as the main source of their dissatisfaction, ranging from chronic billing problems, poor phone and follow-up communications and wait times of one to four hours or more to see a doctor.

Interestingly, most online healthcare reviewers who complain about customer service wind up praising their doctors and typically appear satisfied with the quality of medical care. Vanguard's prior social media research found patients freely express gratitude for doctors' individual performances. A 2016 analysis of 34,748 online healthcare reviews showed that two out of three American patients, or 66 percent, gave doctors either four or five stars on social media.

Research previously published in Health Affairs found that patient feedback on hospitals with at least three Yelp reviews each correlated strongly with the evaluations of hospitals nationwide in the federally mandated survey known as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. Results of HCAHPS surveys -- initially developed in 2002 -- determine one-quarter of government payments to individual hospitals.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com