Correlation between social media utilization by academic neurosurgery departments and higher online patient ratings

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  • 1 Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois; and
  • | 2 Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, California
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OBJECTIVE

Patients increasingly utilize online physician review websites (PRWs) and social media to inform healthcare-related decisions. This provides neurosurgeons with opportunities for increased patient engagement. And despite the growing use of social media among neurosurgeons, the relationship between social media utilization and online reviews remains unknown. The goal of this study was to characterize the relationship between social media utilization and PRW ratings across academic neurosurgery departments.

METHODS

Social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram) of academic neurosurgery departments were identified. Online reviews for individual faculty were obtained from Healthgrades, Vitals, WebMD, and Google. Reviews were aggregated to identify the total number of reviews per department, to generate a composite departmental rating, and to calculate a summed departmental score. US News & World Report (USNWR) and Doximity rankings were recorded for each department. Social media utilization by individual neurosurgeons and associated ratings were investigated within the departments with the highest social media utilization.

RESULTS

Seventy-eight percent of academic neurosurgery departments utilized social media. The most prevalent platform was YouTube (49.1%), followed by Twitter (46.5%), Facebook (38.6%), and Instagram (16.7%). Higher patient ratings on PRWs were associated with the utilization of YouTube (p = 0.048) or Twitter (p = 0.02). The number of social media platforms utilized demonstrated a significant, positive correlation with patient ratings (p = 0.006) and summed patient ratings (p = 0.048). Although USNWR (p = 0.02) and Doximity (p = 0.0008) rankings correlated with patient ratings, only the number of social media platforms utilized remained a significant predictor of patient ratings on multivariate analysis (p = 0.0001). Thirty-one percent of academic neurosurgeons from departments with high social media utilization were active on social media. The most prevalent social media platform among individual neurosurgeons was Twitter (27.4%), followed by Instagram (8.4%), Facebook (4.9%), and YouTube (2.2%). Higher summed patient scores were associated with individual neurosurgeon utilization of YouTube (p = 0.04), Facebook (p < 0.0001), and Instagram (p = 0.01). Increased social media utilization among neurosurgeons was correlated with a greater number of patient reviews (p = 0.006) and higher summed patient scores (p = 0.003). On multivariate analysis, only Facebook use remained a significant predictor of the number of patient reviews received (p = 0.002) and summed patient satisfaction scores (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

An increased social media presence is associated with higher ratings on PRWs. As neurosurgeons continue to expand their online presence, they should be aware of the possible impact of social media on online patient reviews.

ABBREVIATIONS

PRW = physician review website; USNWR = US News & World Report.

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