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Nursing News: Social Media Evaluates Patient Satisfaction

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, April 30th, 2013

Two studies suggest users of two social media giants, Facebook and Yelp, may do a solid job of reflecting quality of patient care. More people are turning to the Internet to evaluate health care providers. 14% of Americans went online last year to consult rankings or reviews of hospitals or medical facilities, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

In a study published last month in the American Journal of Medical Quality, researchers compared the activity on the Facebook pages of 40 hospitals in the greater New York City metropolitan region with more traditional methods of measuring hospital quality, including mortality rates and patient experience surveys.

After controlling for such things as the size of a hospital and the length of time it had a Facebook page, the researchers found that hospitals with lots of “Likes” tended to have lower mortality rates and substantially better patient reviews. “This study’s findings suggest that the number of ‘Likes’ on a hospital’s Facebook page can be used as a proxy for patient satisfaction and an indicator of hospital quality,” wrote the researchers from the Healthcare Innovation Technology Lab, a nonprofit research group in New York.

Another paper published last fall in BJM Quality & Safety examined Yelp reviews of hospitals using a very similar methodology. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco focused on 270 hospitals that had at least six reviews on Yelp, which is a popular site for people to post opinions about restaurants and other businesses. The authors compared the reviews with those of more traditional measurements of patient satisfaction surveys, mortality and readmissions.

The hospitals that did the best on Yelp, garnering four or five stars, tended to have better mortality and readmission outcomes. Dr. Naomi Bardach and her fellow UCSF researchers wrote that “the data suggest that the ratings posted on the commercial website may be capturing experiences similar to those driving the more systematically collected HCAHPS ratings.”

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