Do Yelp scores for hospitals matter?
Consumers are increasingly turning to review sites such as Yelp to help them shop for quality healthcare in this age of high copays and deductibles. But do user ratings and reviews really help people find the best hospitals? A new report suggests they can make a difference.
The Manhattan Institute, a New York–based think tank, found that state hospitals with higher Yelp ratings were more likely to have lower rates of potentially preventable readmissions. The research echoes a previous study in Health Affairs that found a link between Yelp reviews and Medicare's Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems scores.
"People are going to have to make more decisions about when and where to access care," said Paul Howard, director of health policy at the Manhattan Institute and a coauthor of the study. "?'Dr. Google' is the first place consumers look for health information. Whether we like this or not, this train has left the station."
More people are assuming a greater share of their healthcare costs through high-deductible plans. In a survey of 152 metro area employers, 63% of respondents said they offered their employees high-deductible plans, and 22% of employees enrolled in them, according to health benefits consultant Mercer.
A quick scan of several large city hospitals' Yelp ratings showed a range between two and four stars. New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center had four stars. NYP/Weill Cornell Medical Center and NYU Langone Medical Center both received three stars. Mount Sinai Hospital and NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue each had 2.5 stars. And Maimonides Medical Center received two stars.
While people who have either excellent or dreadful experiences are more likely to post on Yelp, users can study the comments to determine why a reviewer scored a hospital poorly. For example, said Howard, one might give less weight to a post that derides a hospital for failing to prescribe antibiotics since they are not often medically necessary.
Howard co-authored the report with Yevgeniy Feyman, an adjunct fellow at the institute and a senior research assistant in health policy and management at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health. They recommend that Yelp add simple quality metrics to hospitals' pages, with links to more detailed information on quality.
New York has attempted to arm consumers with quality data through its annual reports on hospitals' and surgeons' performance in angioplasties and cardiac surgery. But they are dense and loaded with caveats that make them difficult for patients to comprehend.
A balance needs to be struck to empower consumers, Howard said. "This is about market share for hospitals," he added "That will be a touchy subject for any system. At the end of the day, providing caveats makes it more comfortable for providers but more confusing for consumers."
"Do Yelp scores for hospitals matter?" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.
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