The word ‘told’ most correlated with negative hospital reviews

In an analysis of hospital reviews posted on Yelp, researchers found the word “told” was correlated to negative reviews, while words like “great” and “friendly” were correlated with positive ones. Findings were posted in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Studies that show the efficacy of online healthcare reviews are a mixed bag. While some researchers believe there is little correlation between internal quality measures in healthcare and online reviews, a previous study assessed 1,000 patient ratings and found online reviews are largely based on patients’ experiences with communication and bedside manner.

“Online review platforms have the ability to amplify an individual’s voice,” wrote lead author Anish K. Agarwal, MD, MPH, of the University of Pennsylvania. “The emergence of these platforms provides an open and public forum for patients to express their opinions which may help redefine how health systems approach the patient experience.”

Agarwal and colleagues sought to analyze hospital reviews on Yelp from May 2005 to March 2017, using the machine learning tool Differential Language Analysis (DLA) and natural language processing. Reviews were of facilities and included narrative text, date and star rating.

“Machine learning and natural language processing offer an approach to analyzing the large amount of narrative text within reviews and begin to shed light on issues around communication and interactions between patients and providers,” Agarwal and colleagues wrote.

Post analysis, the researchers found there were more than 51,000 reviews from 1,566 hospitals. Approximately 42 percent were 1-star reviews and 32 percent were 5-star reviews. 

The word “told” was the single most correlated word among 1-star reviews, present in 19 percent of all reviews. The word “great” and “friendly” were the words most used among 5-star reviews. Additionally, “friendly” was present in 11 percent of reviews.

Online reviews, such as the ones found on Yelp, can offer a wealth of information that can guide healthcare organizations to focus on becoming more patient-centered. 

“Patient-centered care requires providers to effectively communicate with their patients: to ask, to listen and to explain,” Agarwal and colleagues concluded. “Providers must be cognizant of the words and language they use. Teaching the ability to communicate through caring language is crucial for healthcare leaders and educators.”