F Greaves et al. ‘Associations between web-based patient ratings and objective measures of hospital quality.’ Archives of Internal Medicine, 13 February 2012.
Patients’ ratings of hospitals tally with objective measures of the hospital’s performance, according to an independent study published this week in Archives of Internal Medicine.
Since 2008, patients have been able to post comments on and rate hospitals using the NHS Choices website, in the same way as they might rate a hotel on Tripadvisor. The system’s proponents suggest that it helps patients to choose the best services, but no previous study has investigated whether these online ratings are related to clinical measures of healthcare quality, such as mortality rates and incidence of hospital-acquired infections.
Researchers at Imperial College London examined 10,274 ratings of all NHS acute hospital trusts in England submitted on NHS Choices in 2009 and 2010. They found that hospitals with better patient ratings tend to have lower death rates and lower readmission rates. Hospitals rated by patients as being cleaner have lower rates of MRSA infections.
“There are a lot of data available to the public on hospital performance, but people rarely use conventional measures and often find them difficult to understand,” said Dr Felix Greaves, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who led the study. “Our results suggest that NHS Choices ratings may provide useful and relevant information for patients making choices about their care.”
“The match between online ratings and other measures is far from perfect – it’s possible for an individual hospital to have good ratings on NHS Choices but a high mortality rate, or vice versa,” Dr Greaves said. “However, the general trend is that where a hospital’s overall performance on clinical measures is good, patients seem to rate it highly – and vice versa.