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  • What's Not to Like? Study Says Hospital Facebook Ratings Higher When Readmission Rates Are Low

    In what may be a prime example of absence making the heart grow fonder, recently published research claims that the lower a hospital's readmission rate, the better-liked it is—at least on Facebook.

    The study, published in the March 7 edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine (abstract only available for free), links Facebook user-supplied ratings to a commonly accepted objective measure associated with hospital quality—the facility's rate of readmissions of patients within 30 days of discharge. Using data from the Medicare Hospital Compare website, researchers identified 315 hospitals performing better than the national average for hospital-wide all-cause unplanned readmission rates (HWR), and 364 hospitals with a worse-than-average HWR. Then they tracked down each facility's Facebook page (if it had one) and looked at how user ratings compared with HWRs.

    What they found was that for every 1-star increase in a hospital's star rating on Facebook, the probability that the facility has a lower-than-average 30-day readmission rate increases by 5 times. Another finding: an in-group comparison revealed that hospitals with a Facebook page tended to have lower HWRs than those without.

    "These findings add to the small but growing body of literature suggesting that unsolicited feedback on social media and hospital ratings sites corresponds to patient satisfaction and objective measures of hospital quality," authors write.

    The study was published just 1 month before the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services added a 5-star rating system based on patient satisfaction to the Hospital Compare site. In that system, only 7% of reviewed hospitals earned all 5 stars.

    Study authors cite limitations that include the fact that the HWR statistics were from 2011-2012, before Facebook started its rating system, and that "user-generated feedback … may be biased and not reflective of patient experiences, and it could also be subject to fraud."

    Still, they argue, user-generated ratings could become increasingly important "as consumers become more aware of rating services and as high-deductible plans drive patients to seek care beyond their local hospital."

    Research-related stories featured in PT in Motion News are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.

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