ICBioethics Blog 

Yelp Hospital Reviews Remind Healthcare Industry that Practitioners’ Compassion and Interpersonal Skills Count – A Lot!

Written by: Dr. Kathy Gennuso

Yelp hospital reviews may reveal important details that HCAHPS surveys miss, according to a new study done at the U of PA Perelman School of Medicine discussed in “Penn Medicine Study Suggests Yelp Reviews Can Enhance Government Reports on Hospital Quality: Online Reviews Add a New Dimension to Assessing Care Experience.” The study compared approximately 17,000 Yelp reviews of 1,352 hospitals to HCAHPS reviews of the same institutions. Some of those important details missed reflect patients’ perceptions about medical personnel’s compassion, caring, and attempts to offer comfort to patients and family members.I guess patients really do still care about “bedside manner,” and healthcare providers who don’t attend to this are not getting a bye despite how brilliant they are or how prestigious their reputations.

Not only do patients really care about these things hard to quantify but easy to notice when missing, the AMA does, too. The AMA’s Principles of Medical Ethics lists this at the top of the list:

I. A physician shall be dedicated to providing competent medical care, with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights (

HCAHPS surveys are generating some good feedback, giving us much needed information and insights. But while HCAHPS scores are based on random sampling and its surveys are validated, low response rates and lag time between the actual hospitalization and the published results remain problematic. Furthermore, they lack detailed narratives that characterize Yelp hospital reviews, which can dramatically and persuasively express the specifics of either good or bad experiences, especially regarding personal treatment. Yelp hospital reviews are subject to untruths and/or gaming but they are free to talk about points missed by HCAHPS, appear in real time much closer to the occurrence, and are continuously updated. Yelp’s other huge advantage is its spectacular dissemination of information—33rd most visited website in US with about 142 million unique visitors monthly (according to Penn Medicine article).

What American consumers care about they will communicate loudly and broadly via social media, as well. (75% of all adult internet users now log on to one or more social media sites, with Facebook used by 50% of Americans, Twitter by about 25%, according to Pew Research Center.) We are definitely hearing that they care about how they and their families are treated no matter where they go, expecting competence, courtesy, kindness, fairness, and honest, open communication—i.e., leave all condescension, aloofness, and incomprehensible jargon at the door, please.

It seems feasible that the public’s perception of which facilities offer the highest quality, patient-centered care they seek, from admissions experience to inpatient amenities to post-discharge follow up, will increasingly become one of the main drivers of consumer healthcare choices. Their decisions will be strongly influenced by any former experiences they have had and by those others have reported.

So, please, hospitals take heed: make sure your medical staff, and any staff members for that matter who interact with patients, are purposefully trained to practice empathy, show respect, offer comfort, and, you know, act humanely, like people expect of those who entered the “healing” professions. I honestly believe that most do, but don’t just take it for granted that all do – because, obviously, based on some of the negative feedback, they all don’t and these potentially defaming and unacceptable behaviors canbe avoided. Be preemptive, not just reactive to criticism, and provide your staff (and physicians with privileges) with tools to get it right the first time when interacting with patients.

Organizations who genuinely desire to cultivate positive staff attitudes, caring affirmations, and improved interpersonal communication skills can make these behaviors a hallmark of their culture, and it will show, but it requires desire, effort, the right technology, and allocation of resources.

Be willing to plan for it, train for it, model it, reinforce it, oversee it. Regardless of HCAHPS scores, Yelp hospital reviews, or social media chatter, do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Mitch Gennuso