Whilst social data from the likes of Twitter and Google have been put to worthwhile use, predicting things such as the spread of disease, Facebook has not really enjoyed any similar success stories. That may be down to the closed nature of the network as much as the lighter nature of discussions on the site.
Some new research might be about to change all of that however. A new study recently published in the American Journal of Medical Quality proposes that the number of likes a hospital receives on Facebook is a good barometer of the likely quality of that hospital when it comes to the healthcare they provide.
The researchers analysed 82 hospitals in the New York area, measuring in particular the number of likes each hospital had on Facebook. They then matched this data with the mortality rate of heart attack patients at each hospital, which was determined by the percentage of patients that died within 30 days of admission.
The results are intriguing. They found that every 93 extra likes correlated with a 1% fall in the mortality rate. The researchers draw the conclusion that lower mortality rates equal higher patient satisfaction, which manifests itself in a higher number of likes on Facebook.
It’s a simple and you might say obvious conclusion to draw. It does raise a couple of interesting points though. Firstly, there is not neccesarily a direct link between mortality rates and patient satisfaction. The very sickest patients may still die, but their relatives were nonetheless very happy with the care they received.
It also provides a nice insight into the feedback loop involved in such circumstances. Rating hospitals is not new, and the NHS provides people with the facility to rate their GP, their dentist and their hospital. Such facilities can be invaluable in deciding which provider to go with. In that context you might think that a simple like does not compare favourably with a more detailed review, but this research suggests that it does nonetheless provide a good indication of the quality of the hospital.
So how do the big London hospitals do? Interestingly King’s come out on top with 4,216 likes, followed by Guys and Tommy’s with 1,495 and St Mary’s languishes behind with 525.
How does that compare with the NHS ratings? Well King’s score 5 stars (from 31 reviews), Tommy’s has 4.5 stars from 51 reviews and St Mary’s has 4 stars (from 31 reviews). All of which represents an almost direct correlation with their Facebook rankings. Interesting indeed.