Publicly available online ratings of emergency departments (EDs) and urgent care centers provide important insights for health systems into what patients value as they seek urgent care, according to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

In this retrospective analysis of online reviews, researchers analyzed 100,949 Yelp reviews of EDs and urgent care centers from May 2005 to March 2017. Anish K. Agarwal, MPH, of the Penn Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine in Philadelphia, PA, and colleagues analyzed Yelp reviews using Latent Dirichlet Allocation, an automated process used to analyze co-occurrences of words in text and identify themes in large data sets. Extremes of ratings (low, or 1-star, and high, or 5-star) were examined to identify the clear drivers of high or low patient ratings of an ED or urgent care experience. Differential language analysis allowed for an analysis of which Latent Dirichlet allocation topics had a true correlation to 1- or 5-star reviews.

Yelp reviews indicating patient satisfaction were associated with shorter wait times, understanding of provider roles, effective pain management, ED fast track, interventions for increased patient privacy, and better communication between patient and provider. Feedback from patients choosing ED care indicated that patients felt that it was a “one-stop” healthcare site that was an alternative to primary care after hours.

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This research suggests that patients perceive they will receive better clinical care in EDs and urgent care centers. As acute care markets grow and change, analysis of patient reviews in these clinical settings can improve care delivery.


Agarwal AK, Mahoney K, Lanza AL, et al. Online ratings of the patient experience: emergency departments versus urgent care centers [published online November 1, 2018]. Ann Emerg Med. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2018.09.029