Over to you: Can social media help improve quality of health care?


Apparently this whole social media thing isn’t going away any time soon.

In fact, the role of social media in making health care better and safer has been generating a fair amount of attention in the academic research world.

Last Friday, Kaiser Health News ran a short item (New reasons to “like” online hospital reviews) citing 2 studies that found Facebook and Yelp are actually pretty decent barometers of quality of care in hospitals:

  • A study in the American Journal of Medical Quality found those facilities whose Facebook pages had lots of “likes” tended to have lower mortality and better patient survey scores.
  • A second paper, published in BMJ Quality and Safety, looked at Yelp reviews of hospitals. Those facilities that scored the best on Yelp typically had better mortality, readmission outcomes, and were rated more positively by patients in satisfaction surveys.

Last month, BMJ Quality and Safety carried a pair of papers on the same topic. A viewpoint piece, Harnessing the cloud of patient experience: using social media to detect poor quality healthcare, posits that “the increasing availability of patients’ accounts of their care on blogs, social networks, Twitter, and hospital review sites presents an intriguing opportunity to advance the patient-centred care agenda and provide novel quality of care data.” The paper’s authors go so far as to suggest this “cloud of patient experience” could in fact detect poor performance BEFORE conventional measures of healthcare quality.

In the same issue, an editorial entitled Patient-centred healthcare, social media and the internet: the perfect storm? says patient experience information on the internet won’t replace traditional surveys, but will definitely complement them and should help identify the bright spots that we can learn from and flag problems that need to be addressed: “Thus, in 10 years, the question may not be how to use such data, but how we ever lived without them.”

Over to you:

Have you ever talked about your health care experience — good or bad — on social media?

Has a post or tweet by a friend or family member colored your impression of a particular provider or facility?

Do you think social media holds potential for making care better and safer? Or are platforms like Facebook and Twitter just a soapbox for malcontents to vent to a large audience?

Is this a “fad” that hospitals can wait out, or should they be scrambling to figure out how they can use this new source of information to deliver better service?

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One Response to “Over to you: Can social media help improve quality of health care?”

  1. Michael Milo
    November 28, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    I think health care communicators are taking a very responsible and measured approach to utilizing social media in health care. It is a very deliberate balance between privacy of the patient and the social good that can come out of social media. We won’t always get it right all the time. My opinion is we are doing a pretty good job so far!

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