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Brereton EJ, Matlock DD, Fitzgerald M, et al. Content Analysis of Negative Online Reviews of Hospice Agencies in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(2):e1921130. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.21130
What are the most common criticisms found in negative (ie, 1-star) online reviews of hospice agencies?
In this qualitative study of 137 unique online reviews of 67 hospice agencies, 2 domains of criticisms emerged: actionable criticisms, which are variables hospice organizations can change and include the themes of expectations, communication, and quality of care, and unactionable criticisms, which are variables that require larger systematic changes and include the themes of misperceptions about the role of hospice and the meaning of a good death.
In this study, many criticisms could have been mitigated through enhanced communication between staff and patients’ families, friends, and caregivers during hospice admission to foster realistic expectations of hospice staff, hospice services, and death.
As online reviews of health care become increasingly integral to patient decision-making, understanding their content can help health care practices identify and address patient concerns.
To identify the most frequently cited complaints in negative (ie, 1-star) online reviews of hospice agencies across the United States.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This qualitative study conducted a thematic analysis of online reviews of US hospice agencies posted between August 2011 and July 2019. The sample was selected from a Hospice Analytics database. For each state, 1 for-profit (n = 50) and 1 nonprofit (n = 50) hospice agency were randomly selected from the category of extra-large hospice agencies (ie, serving >200 patients/d) in the database. Data analysis was conducted from January 2019 to April 2019.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Reviews were analyzed to identify the most prevalent concerns expressed by reviewers.
Of 100 hospice agencies in the study sample, 67 (67.0%) had 1-star reviews; 33 (49.3%) were for-profit facilities and 34 (50.7%) were nonprofit facilities. Of 137 unique reviews, 68 (49.6%) were for for-profit facilities and 69 (50.4%) were for nonprofit facilities. A total of 5 themes emerged during the coding and analytic process, as follows: discordant expectations, suboptimal communication, quality of care, misperceptions about the role of hospice, and the meaning of a good death. The first 3 themes were categorized as actionable criticisms, which are variables hospice organizations could change. The remaining 2 themes were categorized as unactionable criticisms, which are factors that would require larger systematic changes to address. For both for-profit and nonprofit hospice agencies, quality of care was the most frequently commented-on theme (117 of 212 comments [55.2%]). For-profit hospice agencies received more communication-related comments overall (34 of 130 [26.2%] vs 9 of 82 [11.0%]), while nonprofit hospice agencies received more comments about the role of hospice (23 of 33 [69.7%] vs 19 of 31 [61.3%]) and the quality of death (16 [48.5%] vs 12 [38.7%]).
Conclusions and Relevance
Regarding actionable criticisms, hospice agencies could examine their current practices, given that reviewers described these issues as negatively affecting the already difficult experience of losing a loved one. The findings indicated that patients and their families, friends, and caregivers require in-depth instruction and guidance on what they can expect from hospice staff, hospice services, and the dying process. Several criticisms identified in this study may be mitigated through operationalized, explicit conversations about these topics during hospice enrollment.
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