Patient Satisfaction News

Can Yelp Online Patient Reviews Inform Practice Improvements?

Online patient reviews show that urgent care centers are better for timely urgent needs while EDs are better for more complex cases.

online provider reviews

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- When it comes to acute care needs, not all care sites are viewed equally, according to new data from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Urgent care centers and emergency departments (EDs) both yield patient satisfaction, but evidence shows they serve different patient needs.

Through an analysis of online patient reviews left on Yelp, the Penn Med researchers noticed patterns in both urgent care and the ED that yield high patient satisfaction scores. This showed considerable differences between the two care sites, highlighting that the ED and urgent care may be better suited for different patient needs.

The researchers conducted an analysis of over 100,000 Yelp reviews from 1,500 EDs and 5,600 urgent care centers. The team looked at reviews for facilities with both five-star and one-star rankings to determine the commonalities between both high- and low-performers.

Five-star rated EDs tended to deliver better quality care, the researchers found. Top-performing facilities delivered on bedside manner, family and caregiver engagement, and access to care on nights and weekends.

One-star EDs received their rankings because of patient concerns with timeliness of care.

READ MORE: How Do Healthcare Pros Feel About Online Provider Reviews?

Highly-ranked urgent care centers, on the other hand, were viewed positively for their convenience. Patients rated urgent care centers if they made care easier or if they also ranked highly among a patient’s family and friends.

Conversely, one-star urgent care centers received low marks because of patient apprehensions about quality of care and negative experiences during the patient intake process.

These results may suggest that urgent care facilities and the emergency department are effective for different care needs. While urgent care centers could serve patients with acute but relatively simple care needs, the emergency department may be better for patients with complex issues.

These results also highlight the utility of online reviews. Patients are increasingly looking to online platforms to voice their opinions of different healthcare facilities and share their experiences. The rise in online provider reviews is likely a result of consumers leaving online reviews in other service areas.

And while organizations or providers may have a complex relationship with online reviews, the research team maintains that consulting online reviews will help industry leaders and individual organizations determine paths forward.

READ MORE: The 4 Steps to Managing Online Provider Reviews in Healthcare

“We are seeing more and more that patients are sharing their experiences online, and they’re looking to social media platforms and online communities to help inform their decision-making,” Kevin B. Mahoney, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said in a statement. “Within these review and rating websites lies a trove of decision-making data that we can and should be culling through to help inform how care is delivered, and what matters most to our patients in emergency situations.”

These online reviews are especially important in the urgent care setting for which there is no standardized patient satisfaction measure. While hospitals, family medicine, pediatric hospitals, and other care settings have their own unique versions of the CAHPS surveys, no such measure has yet to be develop for urgent care.

Online provider reviews can fill that gap, according to Raina Merchant, MD, director of the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health and an associate professor of emergency medicine at Penn Med.

“Online reviews provide a rapid way of taking the pulse of how this acute care market is emerging and what consumers look for in these settings” said Merchant. “These platforms can also help us identify new focus areas, in an effort to provide better, more efficient care to patients based on their expressed needs.”

Although the Penn Med researchers suggested that online provider reviews are key for understanding patient experiences and filling in data gaps, other industry professionals are not so convinced.

READ MORE: How Providers Can Address Online Physician Reviews, Social Media

Providers and organization leaders largely agree that online provider reviews hosted by the hospital or healthcare organization are effective for understanding patient experience. But reviews left on third-party sites, including Yelp or HealthGrades, are not always viewed favorably by providers.

Recent data from the Mayo Clinic showed that providers who receive poor Yelp or other online reviews do not always perform poorly on patient satisfaction surveys.

Additionally, when comparing physicians with poor online reviews with those without poor online reviews, they tend to score lower on factors that are outside of the clinical encounter and the doctor’s control.

However, 2017 research conducted by the Manhattan Institute and funded by the New York State Health Foundation concluded that positive Yelp reviews align with high performance in key quality indicators.

A key consideration with Yelp and other third-party review sites is understanding that reviews come from patients who are on either end of the satisfaction spectrum – meaning patients who are extremely satisfied or those who are extremely dissatisfied.

In order to get reviews from patients with more common healthcare experiences, organizations should consider avenues to make it easier to leave reviews.


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