From parking to pain management, researcher says Yelp reviews can help hospitals improve

    (Ashley Hahn/PlanPhilly)

    (Ashley Hahn/PlanPhilly)

    Many consumers read online reviews before deciding where to buy a washer — or to get tacos.A popular resource they regularly turn to is the review site Yelp, which attracts 86 million unique visitors a month.

    One health researcher sees it as a good place for hospitals to learn how they could improve.

    Look up a hospital near you on Yelp and, much like the restaurants reviews, you’ll read about the best of times and the worst of times.

    “So impressed with the service in their ER that I almost forgot what I was there for,” wrote one  reviewer about a Philadelphia hospital.

    Another visitor described a bad experience at the same place: “There is no reason to be sitting there hours upon hours.”

    Despite varying opinions, University of Pennsylvania emergency medicine physician and researcher Raina Merchant was able to find common themes in about 18,000 reviews covering 1,000 hospitals nationwide. Yelp reviews shed light on important patient concerns, she said.

    “Information on Yelp provides opportunities to learn in real time what patients care about — and for health systems and policymakers to really listen to patients,” she said.

    Merchant said a government-run review site of quality of care in hospitals could incorporate some of the issues raised on Yelp — such as how easy or hard it is to schedule appointments.

    “People would also talk about the parking, the food, access to being able to charge a smartphone device, about the beds that were provided, if the hospital had pillows or not,” she added.

    Aside from these additional issues, Merchant said, there’s a lot of overlap between the government-run review site and Yelp. Issues such as quality of care, pain management, and provider communication skills were important on both sites.

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