Empowering Health Care Consumers

Grantee Name

Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

Funding Area

Empowering Health Care Consumers

Publication Date

June 2018

Grant Amount

$116,577

Grant Date:

July 2016 – June 2017

Consumers and patients seek various sources of information to evaluate the quality of a health care provider and inform their health care decisions.

Patients typically turn to the internet and social media for such information, often going to sites such as Yelp, Healthgrades, and ZocDoc. These reviews increasingly inform consumers’ decisions about where to go for care and cover topics not traditionally captured in clinical data but which reflect patient experience, such as ease in getting requests met or the quality of treatment by frontline staff. Although these reviews are subjective and informal, they are gaining attention for offering information that patients are seeking—a valuable complement to scientifically rigorous measures. Objective hospital quality metrics and survey tools are often expensive to deploy and have low response rates, and there may be significant delays between hospitalization and public reporting of results. Consumer reviews on social media platforms, such as Yelp, enable patient-driven input on the health care system that is timely and accessible to all. In 2016, NYSHealth awarded a grant to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (Manhattan Institute) to examine if Yelp star ratings of hospitals in New York State match up with objective hospital quality measures.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Assessed the extent to which patient-generated ratings on social media platforms correlate with objective data from hospitals in New York State.
  • Produced a report, “Yelp for Health: Using the Wisdom of Crowds to Find High-Quality Hospitals,” which found that:
    • Higher Yelp star ratings are correlated with better-quality hospitals.
    • Yelp ratings appear to have a moderately strong correlation with potentially preventable readmissions, with an association found between higher Yelp star ratings and lower readmission rates.
    • Yelp is a public and accessible tool that has few barriers to usage.
  • Identified the following recommendations for policymakers and stakeholders:
    • Help make Yelp scores and reviews more visible when consumers are making important decisions about health care coverage—for instance, when choosing among competing insurers’ hospital networks on New York State’s health insurance exchange.
    • Link objective, simple quality metrics on the Yelp review page for hospitals to allow patients with specific concerns to access more detailed information that would complement and better inform Yelp quality ratings.
    • Fund innovative ways to make Yelp and other social media reviews more accessible to high-need, vulnerable populations, such as apps, translation software, or the ability for peer-to-peer communications with patient navigators through Yelp.
  • Convened various stakeholders to discuss the report at a public event.
  • Published a commentary in Fortune magazine and a blog post in Health Affairs about the study.
  • Presented study findings at the 2017 National Health Care Ratings Summit and at the Academy Health’s 2018 Health Datapalooza.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A