Yelp reviews reveal that emergency departments are viewed as being higher quality but lacking in service as compared to urgent care centers, which patients rate the opposite, according to a new study from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The study results, published this month in the  Annals of Emergency Medicine, provide a unique opportunity for researchers and clinicians to learn from online reviews, which provide a raw narrative from consumers.

"Today's world is very digital, and it's very common for  consumers to rate a restaurant, hotel or online service, to practice that is spilling over into health care, "said the study's lead author, Anish Agarwal, MD, National Clinician Scholars and Emergency Medicine at Penn Medicine."

"As an emergency doctor, patients often tell me that the internet is the first place they go for information about medical conditions and to research providers. Health systems and clinicians can learn a lot about the communities they treat and how people experience the services they provide by looking at online ratings and reviews, "said  Agarwal.

In this new study, with the help of an automated system, analyzed high (five-star) and low (one-star) Yelp reviews for both emergency departments and urgent care centers, two venues that patients can select from when in need of acute care.

Emergency departments

Researchers identified key themes in the five-star reviews of emergency departments, including bedside manner, treatment of family members, and access to care on nights and weekends. Urgent care centers were unique in receiving five-star reviews more often for factors including ease of refilling prescriptions and being positively recommended by others.

On the other side, emergency departments received negative remarks about the speed of care, while urgent care centers received one-star reviews as a result of poor reception experiences and patients lacking confidence in the care received.

"We see more and more that patients are sharing their experiences online, and they are looking to social media platforms and online communities to help inform their decision-making," said Kevin B. Mahoney, executive vice president, and chief administrative officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

"Within These review and rating websites lies a trove of decision-making we can and Data That should be culling through to help inform how care is delivered, and what matters most to our patients in emergencies," said Mahoney.

Urgent care centers have widely across the country in the past 15 years. Between 2007 and 2016, visits increased by more than 1,700%. But while emergency departments have established surveys for patients and their families to report their experiences, there is not equivalent for gathering direct feedback from patients who visit urgent care centers.