Patients don’t care enough to write online hospital reviews

Seems like a good time to consider the following data, drawn from the Pew Internet and Life Project Report, which makes it pretty clear how little engagement consumers have with hospitals.

According to Pew data from  blogger Nicola Ziady, 60 percent of e-patients engage with social media (sidestepping for now the question of how to *really* define an e-patient). What do they do online? According to Ziady’s data:

  • 33% have gotten information about how to lose or control their weight
  • 27% have gotten information about health insurance
  • 24% have consulted rankings or reviews online of hospitals
  • 12% have gotten information about how to stay healthy on an overseas trip
  • 24% have consulted rankings or reviews of doctors
  • 19% have signed up to receive updates about health or medical issues
  • 13% have listened to a podcast about health or medical issues
  • 5% have reviewed a doctor

And right at the bottom of the list we find this stat:

  • 4% have reviewed a hospital

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a danger sign to me.  Hospitals require such a HUGE investment of resources from patients  — sometimes money, and sometimes just loyalty and energy — that you’d think they’d be raring to comment.  Seemingly, they’re not.

To me, that’s much more striking than the low rate of comments on physicians, given that many of those encounters are routine.

I guess what I’m saying here is this, guys:  What are we doing to leave patients so untouched, unconnected and unimpressed (maybe not disappointed, but not impressed) by their hospital stay that they do nothing to communicate about it on their own? Isn’t this death, at least, for services like labor and delivery where the gossip factor rates very highly in choosing a facility?   Hey, in this situation, complaints may be better than silence.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • Gee – that is amazing that 4% have not only the desire to review a hospital. but have any CLUE how to do it !!!

  • This doesn’t really surprise me as one’s mindset after giving birth or dealing with a traumatic health episode (which is the other reason most people end up in the hospital) is not to rush to the computer and write reviews.

    Perhaps if hospital websites provided more content that offered follow-up care (a forum for new parents, post-operative care instructions for surgery patients, etc), it would give patients or their loved ones a reason to visit the website after their stay. A request for reviews could be solicited somewhere on those content pages.

    People generally have to be encouraged to write a review. That could be done with a card provided on the meal tray (with the option to fill it in or go online when they return home) or a flyer included in new parents’ take home bags as well as on the website.

  • Anne —

    I think that one way of looking at this is by examining successful hospital social media efforts that include evidence of patient engagement. One such hospital that comes to mind is Childrens Hospital in Boston. Check out the Childrens blog (Thrive) and Facebook page for examples of the dialogue. One element that makes it hard to replicate this experience/level of engagement is that the posters are not the patients – they’re the parents. Maybe the lesson there is that other health care providers need to reach out to family members/significant others/etc. in order to get them to post about the experience, since the patients themselves may not want to. As a patient with a serious illness in my past myself, I can report that I didn’t want to talk about the experience with anyone for about 10 years … so I can understand the lack of engagement by patients in this manner.

  • Folks, thanks for your responses — fascinating in their diversity! There’s much to be considered in what techniques would be needed to encourage patient reviews of hospitals; I think both David’s and Lisa’s posts make a good point regarding the need for extra effort. Then, of course, there’s Ted, who notes accurately that many people wouldn’t know where to leave a review if they tried! All in all, food for thought.


  • These percentages seem reasonable to me. Think about the numbers – for every person who has a hospital visit, there are many, many more who are looking for diet help, health insurance info, and general medical info.

  • Ed, thanks for weighing in! My theory is just that when big things happen — births, deaths, close calls — people want to talk about their experiences, either to celebrate (babies) or achieve catharsis. (Hey, if online hospital reviews had been common in 2000 when my first son was born I would have reviewed everyone involved, positively as it happens.) If they aren’t engaged enough with the process, including relationships with key providers, their sense of physical safety, comfort and recovery or even the facilities, something’s missing. People haven’t gotten “hooked” into what that institution can offer overall in the way of healing and help.

    Your mileage may, and apparently does 🙂 vary, of course.

  • Ed’s point is valid except that the study showed that 24% were looking for hospital reviews online. So that suggests they were considering a hospital visit for themselves or someone else and could potentially write a review thereafter. Did the study not include the percentages of those who go online to chat in health care forums for support rather than professional medical advice?

  • Good point Lisa — sorry I missed it. I’m beginning to think I should interview the Pew people and get some answers to these questions. Will report back.

  • Interesting study. Our Mayo Clinic research shows that 90 percent of our patients report saying “good things” to an average of 40 people (some a lot more, others a lot fewer), but in a way you can hardly avoid talking with people you know and run into each day. Doing an online rating takes a concerted effort. If 24 percent have consulted reviews, that just means they’re in the decision-making process and looking for guidance. Once they’ve decided, they probably aren’t going back.

    I don’t always leave feedback for e-Bay sellers once I’ve gotten my package in the mail (even though eBay sends me a message asking me to) so the 6:1 ratio of review readers to writers doesn’t surprise me that much.

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