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Tweets about hospital quality: a mixed methods study
  1. Felix Greaves1,
  2. Antony A Laverty2,
  3. Daniel Ramirez Cano1,
  4. Karo Moilanen3,
  5. Stephen Pulman3,
  6. Ara Darzi1,
  7. Christopher Millett2
  1. 1Centre for Health Policy, Imperial College London, St Mary's Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Computer Science, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Felix Greaves, Centre for Health Policy, Imperial College London, St Mary's Hospital, London W2 1NY, UK; fg08{at}imperial.ac.uk

Abstract

Background Twitter is increasingly being used by patients to comment on their experience of healthcare. This may provide information for understanding the quality of healthcare providers and improving services.

Objective To examine whether tweets sent to hospitals in the English National Health Service contain information about quality of care. To compare sentiment on Twitter about hospitals with established survey measures of patient experience and standardised mortality rates.

Design A mixed methods study including a quantitative analysis of all 198 499 tweets sent to English hospitals over a year and a qualitative directed content analysis of 1000 random tweets. Twitter sentiment and conventional quality metrics were compared using Spearman's rank correlation coefficient.

Key results 11% of tweets to hospitals contained information about care quality, with the most frequent topic being patient experience (8%). Comments on effectiveness or safety of care were present, but less common (3%). 77% of tweets about care quality were positive in tone. Other topics mentioned in tweets included messages of support to patients, fundraising activity, self-promotion and dissemination of health information. No associations were observed between Twitter sentiment and conventional quality metrics.

Conclusions Only a small proportion of tweets directed at hospitals discuss quality of care and there was no clear relationship between Twitter sentiment and other measures of quality, potentially limiting Twitter as a medium for quality monitoring. However, tweets did contain information useful to target quality improvement activity. Recent enthusiasm by policy makers to use social media as a quality monitoring and improvement tool needs to be carefully considered and subjected to formal evaluation.

  • Quality Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Health Services Research

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

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