‘Liking’ you for the right reasons

Study shows link between social media, quality

Most hospitals probably have a Facebook page and Twitter feed by now. But does how many people “like” you or “follow” you matter? Maybe. According to a study published last month in the American Journal of Medical Quality, hospitals with better quality scores also have more “likes” on their Facebook pages.

Lead author Alex Timian, now an investigator with the Mintz Group in New York City, did the work with his colleagues last year at HITLAB, which does research related to health information technology. Timian says they wanted to see whether there was any correlation between a consumer’s choice to “like” a page and more traditional metrics for that hospital’s quality and patient satisfaction.

“Through our exploratory study we learned that Facebook ‘likes’ had a strong negative association with 30-day mortality rates,” he says. For every 93 additional Facebook “likes,” there is a corresponding 1 percentage point decrease in 30-day mortality. The number of “likes” was also positively associated with patient recommendation, although not as strongly as with 30-day mortality.

He says that with more research, you could get a sense from social media about quality and patient satisfaction. But for now, there is just a correlation evident. What it stems from and what it means isn’t yet known.

Timian says his work, as well as other work including a paper published in March by Altman et al in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, is a good starting point for people interested in the relationship between social media and healthcare. “Think about ways that your organizations can mine social media for feedback from their patients and community members, to help identify areas where they are doing well or that they need to address,” he says. “This study is just a first step in attempting to validate social media data so that we can better understand what it tells us about care delivery and patient experience. It would be ideal for quality and safety managers to build on this.”

If you aren’t involved in social media, get on that. It’s here to stay, he says, and is an integral part of how patients seek information and communicate with others about their experiences. “We, as public health researchers, are embracing the exploration of these tools for research into care quality and patient satisfaction. In the same vein, we see significant momentum for hospitals and other facilities to embrace social media both for engaging with and listening to their patient communities.”


  1. Timian A, Rupcic S, Kachnowski S, Luisi P. Do patients “like” good care? Measuring hospital quality via Facebook. Am J Med Qual 2013 Feb 1.

For more information about this topic, contact: Alex Timian, investigator, Mintz Group, New York, NY. Telephone: (212) 489-7100.