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Study: Yelp ratings work for hospitals, too.

The year was 2004. Jeremy Stoppelman (future co-founder of Yelp) was sick. The internet really sucked at answering the question, “How do you find a great doctor online?

…It was the “Ah-ha!” moment.

A lot of folks assume Yelp is all about restaurant discovery (and we’d agree it’s a great way to use Yelp), but many are surprised to learn the Genesis question that started Yelp was based on inadequacies of medical information in local search.

Yelp has come a long way since 2004, and we were heartened to see the results of a recent study, published in the BMJ Quality and Safety Journal, which found that high Yelp ratings for hospitals correlate with high ratings through the industry standard patient survey system, as well as with lower readmission and mortality rates.

The authors compared Yelp ratings with scores from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), a standardized survey measurement of patient satisfaction at a hospital based upon 18 patient perspectives on care across 8 topics. The correlation between Yelp star scores and HCAHPS overall scores (0.49) is high, showing that consumers are reporting similar experiences through both avenues.

What does this mean? It means that a hospital’s Yelp rating is a pretty darn good measure of what you can expect to experience in real life. Why is that significant?

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According to a recent survey cited in the study, 42% of US consumers use social media to access health-related consumer reviews of treatments or physicians, and 41% say that information found via social media would affect their hospital choice.

At the end of the day, Yelp's focused on ensuring our reviews — be they of restaurants or nursing homes — provide an accurate online prediction of one’s offline experience with local businesses.