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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Hospitals join hotels and restaurants in receiving blistering Yelp reviews

Joy Daughtery Dickinson is executive editor of the Hospital Group of publications at AHC Media in Atlanta and long-time editor and writer of Same-Day Surgery. She has won nine national awards from the Specialized Information Publishers Association and the Association of Business Information & Media Companies for her blogging, news writing, and editing. She makes her home in southwest Georgia.

Comments on outdated furniture. The rude staff. Limited menus.

While these comments on Yelp might sound as if they are for a hotel or restaurant, they actually are for the newest addition on Yelp: reviews of hospitals, nursing homes, and doctors.

Yelp has teamed up to do the reviews with ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that provides investigative journalism. Yelp will post information from ProPublica’s interactive health databases on its health provider pages. The information offered is consumers’ experience, including average wait times and how well doctors communicated. The site also compares providers’ practice patterns with their peers. The data comes from CMS.

These reviews put hospitals in a position to learn a lesson hotels and restaurants picked up a long time ago: Customer service matters, perhaps more than anything else. ProPublica reports that when people are unhappy about their service, they complain. A lot. But the good news is that most patients are happy. There are many more five-star ratings than one-star ones among healthcare providers. Four stars is the average. Doctors came in at the low end: 3.6. Perhaps that’s why the AMA teamed up with a company named that monitors social media sites and attempts to address negative reviews.

The really bad news? If you have sicker or poorer patients, or more difficult cases, that could impact your data.

And don’t expect to be able to successfully sue patients who write blistering reviews. Thus far, courts have given verdicts on the side of the customer web sites and consumers, ProPublica reports.

So what can you do? Focus on the areas patients are likely to complain about: long wait times, difficulty getting an appointment, billing errors, and customer service. Solutions in these areas are covered regularly in our Hospital Access Management publication. Our August issue included the story, “Want satisfaction scores to soar? Simple solutions give big results.” Your social media team can respond to negative comments, but those team members should be educated about HIPAA, another topic covered regularly in HAM.

Expect the popularity of healthcare reviews to continue growing. Yelp reviews get millions of page views every month, ProPublica says. Start today helping your staff shine, and the glowing online reviews will follow. (For more information about how to handle negative online reviews, see this story from our Same-Day Surgery publication: “All it takes is a few keystrokes, and your facility's reputation is ruined.” Follow us on Twitter @HospitalReport.)