Nearly two-thirds of about 2,700 online reviewers of well-regarded hospitals gave mediocre to poor ratings on Yelp.com, according to an analysis by Vanguard Communications & Healthcare Process Improvement.
The report looked at the reviews of the top 20 U.S. hospitals ranked by U.S. News & World Report. The analysis found that almost 63% of Yelp reviewers rated the facilities between 1 and 3 stars out of 5 for a combined average ratings of 3.2.
Eighty-four percent of complaints on Yelp cited non-clinical service issues as the main problem, including billing issues, poor phone and follow-up communications and wait times. However, most negative healthcare reviewers also praised their doctors and quality of care.
This new analysis shows how patient experience beyond medical care can hurt the online reputation even at those considered top hospitals. Vanguard said previous social media research of nearly 35,000 online reviews showed that 66% gave their doctors 4 or 5 stars on social media. Ron Harman King, Vanguard CEO, said reviewers generally like their providers. The non-clinical services are what upset them. "The harshest reviews more often than not complain about non-clinical services provided by administrative staffs surrounding the doctors,” said King.
Much like any business, online reviews can harm a hospital or physician’s reputation. Some providers are seeking legal remedies. Highland Park Emergency Center and Preston Hollow Emergency Room, Dallas-based freestanding emergency departments, filed a petition in district court in October asking Google to reveal the identities of 22 screen names posting negative reviews and ratings. An Ohio plastic surgeon also filed a defamation lawsuit after an anonymous online review criticized the physician.
It’s not only individual reviewers causing concern. Saint Anthony Hospital in Chicago sued the Leapfrog Group in October and claimed the organization knowingly used incorrect information to downgrade its patient safety grade.
Organizations like the Leapfrog Group and sites like Yelp are seen as important online gauges that help patients find high quality care in this age of healthcare consumerism. However, online reviews, especially when anonymous, can leave health systems and hospitals wondering whether there are actually problems or someone with an ax to grind or even a competitor are trying to hurt them.
As this latest research shows, online reviews on Yelp are not always what they seem and aren’t often connected to actual care. However, these reviews can show hospitals that there are issues on the non-patient side that need improving.