Walking through a hospital, many patients are yelping for their doctors and nurses to help manage their pain. However, with the changing interface of the application “Yelp,” patients yelping will benefit others with their health decisions. While Yelp is best known for its reviews of foods and services, hospitals may be coming soon to the list of “things-to-do” within a five-mile radius. Some may see Yelp as an informal review website for businesses, but others’ recent research suggests otherwise.
A new study conducted by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows that Yelp reviews of hospitals have a significant effect on where patients choose to receive hospital care. Embracing this service will empower patients to control the quality of their healthcare. Hospital reviews on Yelp will empower patients by providing them the information to make sound decisions, hold healthcare providers to higher standards and minimizes the conception of healthcare as a “business.”
One way to ensure patients make informed decisions about their healthcare is spreading to a platform they are familiar with, such as Yelp. Healthcare patients who are unfamiliar with official hospital reviews and ratings often have trouble distinguishing the quality of care between hospitals due to the bureaucracy of these reviews. The study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania compared Yelp reviews to reviews from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey. The HCAHPS survey is a national standard that gauges how well patients perceive their health care to be. According to Raina M. Marchant, a senior author of the study, approximately six percent of Americans know about the HCAHPS survey. In order to be proactive in healthcare choices, patients must be fully informed about all aspects of the hospitals, not just the categories official reports detail. Providing testimonies and opinions on a platform like Yelp allows patients to have their voices and opinions heard by other patients and by healthcare providers. This will lead to a change in patient behavior, ultimately placing power in the patient to ensure quality hospital service.
On the other end of the healthcare system are the providers. For them, a platform such as Yelp is a tool that can heavily impact their patient load and encourages excellence. Dr. Marchant further explains that 42 percent of internet users looking for health information and reviews online look to social media. Given that many patients are turning to online resources to determine where they receive healthcare, it is crucial to have a platform that has digestible information on healthcare (no pun intended). While hospitals strive to receive good ratings on government surveys, these do not hold as much weight with patients. Yelp provides hospitals the opportunity to showcase how they excel in aspects of healthcare that cannot be quantitatively measured. Yelp allows testimonies to speak for themselves and for patients to be the core of how hospitals evaluate their success.
Skeptics may discuss Yelp as a catalogue of businesses, however in the realm of patient care Yelp fills the gap in knowledge between official surveys and real experiences. Yelp opens a discussion about pertinent patient issues not addressed in HCAHPS. The University of Pennsylvania study found that insurance/billing, and the cost of the visit were two negative aspects of certain healthcare facilities discussed on the Yelp reviews. Neither of these are found in the HCAHPS survey, which demonstrates asymmetric knowledge.
Needing hospital care is unavoidable, however patients still retain the ability to choose their hospitals. Since consumers must choose a hospital, it is in the best interest of all parties to ensure that the best quality of care is provided. While government surveys, such as HCAHPS are important for funding purposes, it is only relevant in the world of healthcare providers. Yelp reviews are ways to ensure that the reputation of the hospitals is maintained. The patients are the ones who choose to return and keep hospitals running. Therefore, hospital staff are forced to focus on the patients, since they are more proactive in their care and expect more from their hospital and healthcare provider.
Ultimately, beginning to integrate reviews of hospitals on Yelp creates a new platform for consumers to share information previously ignored in official hospital reviews. Providing this information allows consumers to make a more informed decision, and encourages providers to present themselves as the best service possible. Through this new service, hospitals will reinforce their commitment to the patient experience as more than simply quantitative. This will give a voice to patients and pressure hospitals to strive to provide the best care possible. Your restaurant choice should be one you’re proud of, and soon Yelp will help you do the same for your health.
Aliza Asad is a fourth-year public health policy major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.