Catalyst for Payment Reform

Would you choose a hospital based on its Yelp review? Maybe you should.

Would you choose a hospital based on its Yelp review? Maybe you should.

“Have you checked out that place? It has a five-star review on Yelp”

Without the context, you’d probably assume someone was talking about a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. What if I told you that that place was actually a hospital, would a five-star Yelp review convince you to seek care there?

The Manhattan Institute’s April 2017 report “Yelp for Health: Using the wisdom of crowds to find high-quality hospitals” says go right ahead and use Yelp to help you choose your site of care. That’s because higher Yelp reviews are correlated with better-quality hospitals. This correlation is strongest when pairing the crowd generated reviews with the hospital’s potentially avoidable readmission rate. The researchers also tested the correlations between Yelp reviews and other hospital quality measures, like mortality rates, but in those cases, the correlations were not as clear.

A hospital’s potentially avoidable readmission rate is an objective measure of hospital quality, but it doesn’t quite roll of the tongue as does “4.5 stars on Yelp.” On the other hand, social media reviews are subjective; their redeeming characteristic is their accessibility. Yelp is free to use, easy to understand and accessible to anyone with an internet connection without the hassle of logging in to an account. So the fact that Yelp reviews correlate well with a quantifiable measure of hospital quality may be a game changer.

There are a few significant limitations.

  1. More health care related reviews are needed across Yelp to increase reliability. For example, the Manhattan Institute researchers had to reduce their sample size due to lack of Yelp reviews for many of the New York hospitals in the study. Does your local hospitals have any reviews on Yelp? The more reviews, the better – for users and researchers alike.
  2. There’s the disconnect between the providers reviewed on Yelp and which providers are covered by a patient’s insurance. As the prevalence of tiered or limited networks increases, a growing majority of patients may find themselves frustrated after choosing a hospital with the help of a Yelp search only to find that their insurance limits their options.
  3. Patients may need to use other resources, like a health plan online member support tool, alongside Yelp to research their options. These tools have invested in surfacing provider options based on a member’s insurance coverage and incorporate cost into the equation as well.

The Yelp for Health Report may have surprised stakeholders by finding a correlation between consumer-generated reviews and hospital claims data. Another website pairs these two types of ratings in a more deliberative way: Vitals boasts over 9 million ratings and reviews in their searchable database. Meanwhile HealthGrades focuses on empowering patients with a dedicated platform to share their experiences and offering explanations of common conditions and procedures. Both tools are vying for the attention of health care consumers but lack Yelp’s name recognition. Recent reports show that Yelp is interested in expanding its presence in health care, with partnerships with the California Health Care Foundation among others. CPR welcomes efforts like these that increase transparency in health care and use the power of consumer-generated reporting to disrupt the status quo. We hope more patients and benefit managers will push for higher-value health care with the help of these innovative tools.

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