Yelp Reviews Proven to Be Reliable Indicator of Hospital Quality

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Hospitals that ignore Yelp reviews may be missing out on the chance to take an active role in developing a positive online reputation.

As the digital economy empowers patients to make increasingly important decisions about their own healthcare, users are taking to online review platforms such as Yelp, Google Maps, and Google My Business to research providers and find the care they need. While some medical professionals are understandably concerned that unverified reviews might not be the most reliable information patients can find, recent research suggests otherwise.

A new report from the Manhattan Institute shows that positive Yelp reviews can be a “useful and reliable” metric for judging the quality of New York hospitals, as measured by risk-adjusted, potentially preventable readmissions (PPRs). For medical marketers, this news provides an impetus to incorporate review management programs into their overall digital strategy. The sooner they do so, the better — especially as patient centricity puts more and more consumers in the driver’s seat of key medical decisions.

Yelp Aligns with Hospital Quality

Funded by the New York State Health Foundation, “Yelp for Health: Using the Wisdom of the Crowds to Find High-Quality Hospitals,” reviewed a sample of nearly 300 New York state hospitals. Then, researchers and coauthors Paul Howard and Yevgeniy Feyman compared data from those institutions on preventable readmissions and mortality with scores on Yelp.

Analysis found that Yelp ratings — aggregated from user reviews — have a statistically significant correlation with low PPR numbers. Though PPR is not the only metric that determines the quality of a hospital or its doctors, a low incidence of PPR often indicates a well-run institution with skilled physicians.

Importantly, Howard and Feyman do not argue that Yelp alone should guide patients’ decisions, but that the platform can serve as an informative source for consumers who have multiple to options to choose from. Many hospital ranking systems run on metrics that are inaccessible or confusing to the general patient population. Yelp reviews, on the other hand, offer a clear, concise measure that aligns well with hospital quality while presenting additional information that may be useful to patients conducting research on medical care.

Use Reviews as a Tool to Improve Patient Engagement and Service

As patients take more of an active role in shaping the care they receive, how they receive it, and who they receive it from, platforms like Yelp are increasingly gaining clout among consumers.

For medical marketers looking to future-proof their digital presence, effective online review management is a must. If patients have left praise, thank them for their feedback. If, on the other hand, users have detailed negative or mediocre experiences, tell them that you appreciate their comments and will work to improve upon pain points they’ve identified. By showing that you take patient feedback seriously, you’ll be signaling that your institution — whether it’s a large hospital system or a smaller practice — considers patient needs when designing care programs.

Additionally, medical marketers should ensure that information listed on these sites — such as address, hours, and specialities — is accurate. If it’s not, you may be losing out on traffic from users searching for care in their area or for physicians with certain specialties.

With optimized business profiles and a substantive back-and-forth with users, medical marketers can better position their digital strategy to succeed.

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