Washington, Mar 13: How hospitals are rated on Facebook may reflect how well they perform on a widely-used measure of quality care, a new study has found.
In 2013, Facebook began providing organisations the option of allowing users to post ratings ranging from one to five stars on their official Facebook pages.
The current study was designed to compare hospitals' 30-day readmission rates with their Facebook ratings. The investigators analysed data available from Hospital Compare - a website sponsored by the Centre for Medicare and Medicaid Services - on 30-day readmission rates for 4,800 US hospitals.
While more than 80 per cent had rates within the expected national average range, 7 per cent had significantly lower-than-average readmission rates - a measure that reflects above-average care - and 8 per cent had rates that were significantly higher than average.
There were no significant differences between the low- and high-readmission hospitals in terms of size, number of admissions, expenses and whether they were non-profit or for-profit, although major teaching hospitals were more likely to be high-readmission hospitals.
Low-readmission hospitals were more likely to have Facebook pages than were high-readmission hospitals 93 per cent versus 82 per cent and more than 80 per cent of those in both groups with Facebook pages provided the five-star rating system.
Comparison between the two groups revealed that each one-star increase in a hospital's Facebook rating was associated with a greater than five-fold increase in the likelihood that it would have a low, rather than a high readmission rate.
Other data available on hospital Facebook pages including the number of times users reported visiting the hospital, how long a hospital's Facebook page had been available, and the number of Facebook 'likes' - did not differ between the low- and high-readmission groups.
"We found that the hospitals in which patients were less likely to have unplanned readmissions within the 30 days after discharge had higher Facebook ratings than were those with higher readmission rates," said lead author McKinley Glover, a clinical fellow in the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Radiology.
"Since user-generated social media feedback appears to be reflective of patient outcomes, hospitals and health care leaders should not underestimate social media's value in developing quality improvement programmes," said Glover.
While few studies have examined the relationship between social media and measures of health care quality, as the use of social media has grown, consumers' health care decisions may be influenced by information posted to social media sites by patients and others, researchers note. The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.