Objectives: Publicly available hospital quality reports seek to inform consumers of important healthcare quality and affordability attributes, and may inform consumer decision-making. To understand how much consumers search for such information online on one Internet search engine, whether they mention such information in social media and how positively they view this information. Setting and design: A leading Internet search engine (Google) was the main focus of the study. Google Trends and Google Adwords keyword analyses were performed for national and Californian searches between 1 August 2012 and 31 July 2013 for keywords related to 'top hospital' , best hospital', and 'hospital quality ', as well as for six specific hospital quality reports. Separately, a proprietary social media monitoring tool was used to investigate blog, forum, social media and traditional media mentions of, and sentiment towards, major public reports of hospital quality in California in 2012. Primary outcome measures: (1) Counts of searches for keywords performed on Google; (2) counts of and (3) sentiment of mentions of public reports on social media. Results: National Google search volume for 75 hospital quality-related terms averaged 610 700 searches per month with strong variation by keyword and by state. A commercial report (Healthgrades) was more commonly searched for nationally on Google than the federal government's Hospital Compare, which otherwise dominated quality-related search terms. Social media references in California to quality reports were generally few, and commercially produced hospital quality reports were more widely mentioned than state (Office of Statewide Healthcare Planning and Development (OSHPD)), or non-profit (CalHospitalCompare) reports. Conclusions: Consumers are somewhat aware of hospital quality based on Internet search activity and social media disclosures. Public stakeholders may be able to broaden their quality dissemination initiatives by advertising on Google or Twitter and using social media interactively with consumers looking for relevant information.
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