Online Reviews & Healthcare Quality
Doctors are subject to evaluation on many levels. Physicians may be judged on availability, and bedside manner, in addition to their ability to ameliorate patients’ conditions. Interestingly, the reliability of a physician when it comes to addressing health problems does not necessarily correlate to high ratings by patients (Carroll). Patients, or the subset of them who write reviews, may consider other factors more important than outcome. Review websites for doctors are extremely popular with upwards of 33 publically available sites for this purpose. (Lopez) With this many options for publically available data on patient satisfaction it may be appropriate to ask how hospitals determine whether they are meeting customer expectations.
The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey is commonly used as a data source when comparing patient satisfaction levels. This survey is aimed at gaining patients’ perspectives and allowing consumers a way to evaluate the hospitals available to them. This survey also has made a goal of increasing the standards for care (HCAHPS...). Hospitals with better reports, as put forward by patients, are expected to accrue business based on their higher satisfaction ratings and the possibility of a larger market share will push hospitals to improve their reviews. However, some patients may not see alternatives to the hospital they have been using even if they were unsatisfied with their interactions or experience there; and some hospitals may not see improving survey results as a significant way to access more of the market. The levels to which the HCAHPS survey reflects hospitals’ quality have been debated and some studies show that hospitals that perform well on the survey have high clinical standards, while others show quite the opposite (Carroll).
In turning to online reviews hospitals may gain new perspectives on patient satisfaction and, in turn, their own performance. By looking at Yelp reviews instead of HCAHPS data researchers found 12 more metrics that play into a patient’s satisfaction (Carroll). This isn’t saying that the HCAHPS data isn’t a useful way to examine hospitals but does suggest that the factors that influence a patient’s hospital experience are diverse and not fully accounted for in the survey data.
Does the prevalence of online reviews change where we go for care? Do we seek out hospitals and doctors who are held in high regard? A recent study has shown we do: “we find robust evidence across several different conditions and performance measures that higher quality hospitals have higher market shares and grow more over time.” (Chandra). With this in mind it becomes clear that at least some patients see choice in where they go for medical care and can make decisions based on satisfaction as customers. Where patients are gaining the data needed to make such decisions should be investigated further; online reviews may prove to be influential in this regard.
Carroll, Aaron E. "How Yelp Reviews Can Help Improve Patient Care." The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
Chandra, Amitabh, Amy Finkelstein, Adam Sacarny, and Chad Syverson. "Health Care Exceptionalism? Performance and Allocation in the US Health Care Sector." American Economic Review 106.8 (2016): 2110-144. Web.
López, Andrea, Alissa Detz, Neda Ratanawongsa, and Urmimala Sarkar. "What Patients Say About Their Doctors Online: A Qualitative Content Analysis."Journal of General Internal Medicine 27.6 (2012): 685-92. Web.
http://www.hcahpsonline.org Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Baltimore, MD. Sept. 12, 2016.