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Baystate study: Online hospital reviews could boost quality

January 10, 2013
 

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Jan. 10th--A new article in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety suggests that allowing patients to post online reviews of hospitals may help hospitals improve the quality of care they provide and could potentially increase patient engagement in the process of hospital quality improvement.

 

The article, authored by Dr. Tara Lagu and colleagues at Baystate Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine, examined reviews posted by patients about hospitals in England. The authors found that many of the patient comments were similar to domains represented on US patient satisfaction surveys (e.g., hospital cleanliness, demeanor of physicians and nurses, and communication), but also included feedback from patients that would be missed by satisfaction surveys. For example, patients who had specific unmet needs, such as wheelchair accessible parking or specific dietary limitations, used the online forum to provide this feedback. Moreover, a majority of hospitals in the study replied to patient concerns, many with specific ways in which they would make changes in response to patient feedback.

 

“Patient satisfaction surveys are very useful because they collect information from a representative sample of patients and are focused on very specific issues such as communication between staff and patients, noise, and cleanliness,” said Dr. Lagu. “However, patient satisfaction surveys are only sent to a small percentage of patients; an even smaller percentage of patients return the surveys. In this study, we found that many of the patients who left online reviews were those who might be missed by random surveys, giving a voice to those in the minority while simultaneously providing important feedback to hospitals.”

 

In the US, there are more than 30 privately run web sites that make it possible for patients to write reviews about physicians, but only Yelp! allows patients to review hospitals. Still, says Dr. Lagu, the narrative review style is one that is familiar to consumers. "Consumers use narrative reviews to assess the quality and value of products and services, and as a result this format may be compelling to patients who are interested in comparing the quality of hospitals. The fact that a majority of hospitals posted responses, many with specific ways that they planned to change their practice, is an indication that hospitals can use online reviews to improve the care they provide.”

 

To receive a copy of the paper (Lagu T, Goff SL, Hannon NS, Shatz A, Lindenauer PK. A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Patient Reviews of Hospital Care in England: Implications for Public Reporting of Health Care Quality Data in the United States. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf 2013;39(1):7–15), or request an interview, please contact Ben Craft in the Public Affairs Office at Baystate Medical Center 413-794-1689, or email Benjamin.Craft@baystatehealth.org.

 
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