The level of satisfaction with the quality of your healthcare overall may be a predictor of your odds of surviving the coronavirus pandemic, an evaluation of COVID-19 deaths and patients’ online reviews suggests.
In a study of new coronavirus deaths nationwide reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Vanguard Communications – a Denver-based healthcare management consulting firm – found a correlation between mortality rates and patients’ internet reviews of doctors, clinics and hospitals.
Vanguard compared the rate of COVID-19 deaths in the most populous cities and counties against the healthcare satisfaction levels as measured by reviews on Google and Yelp ratings websites– the latter yielding what Vanguard calls the Happy Patient Index (HPI).
Researchers found that locations with COVID-19 mortality rates below 1% of all reported cases had above-average satisfaction ratings online in every instance.
Conversely, residents of areas with mortality rates greater than 5% usually gave their healthcare providers below-average healthcare reviews, as measured by the average number of stars on a five-star rating scale.
“The data suggest that as a whole, the most satisfied healthcare consumers are more likely to survive COVID-19,” said Ron Harman King, Vanguard CEO. “However, this is a vast generalization drawn from aggregated data, and the correlation does not apply uniformly in all instances.”
Vanguard’s model projected that if all healthcare providers had an average online patient rating of four stars and the mathematical correlation held, there might have been from 52,280 to 73,283 fewer COVID-19 deaths through October 25. That is roughly double the number of lives that might have been saved by October 1 if 95% of the population wore masks in public.
The findings show Lincoln, Nebraska, enjoyed the greatest success, with a mortality rate of just 0.35% and an average 3.79-star rating in online reviews. The average rating is 3.70 stars. Lincoln was followed by Madison, Wisconsin, trailed by Anchorage, Alaska, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and San Francisco. More information on specific locations is available at HappyPatientIndex.net.
Cities with the highest mortality rates were New York City (8.94% mortality rate, 3.53 average star rating), Detroit, Jersey City, New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey, and Buffalo, New York.
However, a few outliers included New Orleans, scoring a high HPI of 3.97 stars in online reviews while experiencing a mortality rate of 4.6%, more than tenfold that of top-performing cities. Bakersfield, California, experienced a mortality rate of just 1.19% despite an HPI of 3.33.
“Because these findings suggest only a broad trend, it’s easy to infer too much,” said King. “By no means do we see direct cause and effect, that giving your doctor or hospital a good review inoculates against any disease or poor health condition.”
Clearly, patient satisfaction appears as only one factor, among others, affecting COVID-19 outcomes, King said.
Nevertheless, studies have found that patients’ positive experiences with healthcare – especially those reporting strong communications with providers – correlate to better outcomes.
A formal report of the study will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Medical Practice Management.