Can Yelp reviews identify better skilled nursing facilities?

A new study suggests that hospitals, payers, and patients might learn something useful about the quality of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) by checking online Yelp reviews. These reviews could provide important information beyond publicly reported ratings to inform decisions about postacute care. 

Elderly person in a wheelchair sits by an open window next to their bed in a nursing home.

In JAMA Network Open, Kira Ryskina and colleagues studied 1,536 SNFs with 8,548 online reviews posted between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2018. They assessed the relationship between SNF rehospitalization rates, Yelp ratings, and Medicare Nursing Home Compare (NHC) website ratings. They found that facilities with the highest (best) rating on the two review websites had 2.0% lower rehospitalization rates than the SNFs with the lowest rating on both sites. SNFs with the best ratings on both sites had slightly lower rehospitalization rates than SNFs with the best rating on NHC alone.

While Yelp reviewers rate SNFs on a five-point scale, they also provide text comments about different aspects of their experiences. Using natural language processing, Ryskina and colleagues analyzed these comments to identify specific topics consistently associated with SNFs with the highest and lowest rehospitalization rates. They found that the comments often captured perceptions of experience with SNFs that were not publicly reported in Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare or elsewhere—such as the quality of physical infrastructure and equipment, staff attitudes, and communication with caregivers.

This story is by Janet Weiner. Read more at Penn LDI.